CHRB: “The Optics on [Whipping] Are Bad” – Not the Animal Cruelty Itself

Whipping a racehorse is the most conspicuous form of animal abuse this side of bullfighting and basically every rodeo “competition.” No need for undercover cameras here. Because of this – or to be more accurate, because of Santa Anita thrusting all things racing into the spotlight – the industry is desperately scrambling. What to do about something that has been a fundamental part of racing since time immemorial.

For most in racing, however, whipping is but a problem of perception. Indeed, at the monthly CHRB meeting just two days ago, new board member Wendy Mitchell said this: “The optics on it [whipping] are bad.” The “optics.” Not that we agree it’s cruelty, mind you; it just looks bad. Well. Back in ’15, the ABC (Australia) ran a piece on this very subject. The whole thing (below) is worth watching, but a couple quotes stand out.

Dr. Lydia Tong, veterinary pathologist, on the relative skin thickness of horses and humans: “The really interesting part is that right up in the epidermis, which is the top layer and that’s where the pain-sensing C fibres are, in the human specimen that’s thicker than the horse’s. So by the old argument of horse’s skin is thicker and they feel it less, actually you could argue human’s skin is thicker.” So have someone take a horse whip to your leg (which was done in the show) and report back.

Then this on horse nature: “If a prey animal shows its pain very overtly, they are more likely to then be noticed and picked out by a predator. So actually often prey animals they kind of shut up and put up.”

And finally, this from Australian Racing’s Peter McGauran: “That [not shifting from pain] would have been learned behaviour, agreed. Under the old days [prior to new whip/whipping rules] I concede that the horses learnt to absorb the punishment afforded them.”

The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years prior, his jockeys inflicted “punishment” on his horses – punishment, by the way, seemingly well-“absorbed” due to learned helplessness. Imagine that. Yet I wonder, Mr. McGauran, does this mean that back in the “old days” you were sharing that opinion far and wide, or were you, like the rest, singing that decades-old industry line of the whip as “painless guide”? Please.

Oh, and one final note, Mr. McGauran: There is no past tense about this (“it was broken, so we fixed it”); as the piece (science, common sense) makes abundantly clear, a whip in the hands of a racehorse jockey will always be an instrument of intimidation, conveyor of pain. Put another way, your kinder, gentler whipping is a lie. To steal a line from Clinton ’92, it’s animal cruelty, stupid. And ever it will be.

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  1. Horse racing needs to be outlawed. Horses’ lives are being lost at an alarming rate. This isn’t a sport, it’s an exercise in greed/profit.

  2. Whipping, racing, drugging horses just so some ignorant humans get more $$$ is cruelty & need to finally stop stop. Too many innocent beautiful horses paid the “price” !!! END HORSE RACING FOR GOOD

  3. It’s disgusting that hitting a horse is acceptable in every equine sphere, not just racing. Go to any facility and you’ll find people whacking their horses for every perceived wrong, and no one bats an eye. Yet try taking a fiberglass rod to your dog in a public place and see what happens. I think it’s ironic that there are so many articles being published even by racing industry supporters touting the intelligence and reasoning ability of horses, yet they still treat them like shit. I actually raised this question on the Paulick Report but my comment was deleted. It’s also been proven that horses react to the sight of other horses being abused, so whipping impacts not only the animal being beaten, but all the others too.

  4. Whipping “looks bad” because it IS bad. Anyone not drinking the racing industry koolaid sees it for what it is: cruel, abusive and unnecessary. A study done by the University of Sydney showed that horses run fastest in the early portions of the race and slow down at the end due to muscle fatigue at the cellular level. When this happens, horses are physically incapable of running faster, not wont’t run but can’t run. This is when the jockeys are whipping most vigorously (or “steering”?) which given the physiological state of a horse’s muscles, is sheer torture. Yeah, it looks bad, but the suffering is even worse.

    I would like Ms. Mitchell to run a mile carrying a 20 lb pack with somebody behind her “urging” her along with a whip then report back to us on how it’s only the optics that are bad.

  5. What a Beautiful,Kind,Angelic,face pretty girl Aikenetta had. That dear sweet soul did NOT deserve what happened to her,because of greedy EVIL scumbags. This HORROR show cannot be shut down soon enough.

      • What a FACE, I literally started crying,her face is that magnificent!! By the way Nancy, Thank you so much…for asking about my cold,I’m feeling a lot better,but not quite all the way back yet,a little tired. I will tell you…that Jack Daniels and Coca Cola , the first couple days was very therapeutic. What can I say?, it worked.😂

  6. Let’s make it a federal crime to have horse races and rodeos !! It’s time to put this industry to bed forever!! There are plenty of ways people can make a living that DOES NOT involve animals and cruelty to animals.

  7. I hate horse racing as much as grey hound racing. When greyhounds are too old they put them to sleep. Using a whip on a horse is as bad as using a billhook on an elephant. It’s all animal cruelty

  8. The whipping of horses is without doubt abusive and should be illegal. How owners and trainers permit this and jockeys cruelly do the whipping is difficult to understand, since they supposedly love horses.

  9. The Stronach Group’s marketing policy at its 6 US tracks is to DEPICT “limited use of the whip, meaning nobody reaching back and hitting the horse or anything like that” – that from TSG’s COO Tim Rivto. So they’ve digitally REMOVED whips for promotional photos. But no worries racing fans, they’ve not REALLY removed them – your betting picks are still getting whipped for that $2 bet of yours…more below;

    In the Thoroughbred Daily News, there was an article about photographs for a track’s promotional calendar that had been retouched…some of the whips carried by the jockeys had been digitally removed From the article…

    “An internal marketing policy at The Stronach Group [TSG] designed to minimize imagery that shows whip usage in horse races resulted in unintended blowback…Soon after the calendars [with the photos showing horses, jockeys and ‘missing whips’] began to circulate publicly, some racegoers took to social media to criticize the track’s decision to digitally remove some the whips.” Tim Rivto, TSG’s chief operating officer had this to say about the backlash; “…we should have just selected other images. To try to hide [whip use] is not the best strategy…We should not try to hide what is already out there. People know that jockeys use whips.” The article continued with this; “Rivto explained that TSG’s marketing policy at its six United States tracks is to depict ‘limited use of the whip, meaning nobody reaching back and hitting the horse or anything like that.’”

    Appalling. They address the public’s ever-increasing awareness of lack of racehorse welfare and the growing opposition to horse racing by presenting their sanitized product. They LIE. But social media has made it difficult for the industry to hide racehorse exploitation and to get away with their lies.

  10. There seems to be no aspect of animal cruelty that this industry doesn’t try to justify or downplay to the point of ridiculousness. This article is just further proof that the soul-less bastards who work in the horseracing industry in ANY capacity are completely devoid of conscience and compassion.

    • These racing “people” are such killing machines that they are dead on the inside. They have no feelings whatsoever. You can’t deal with humans who are like that.

  11. IT IS ABUSE, pure and simple!! There is no in between, as in “gentler whipping?” That is a total contradiction in terms. Whipping will NEVER make a horse go faster—it only makes a horse feel pain and be intimidated by humans, the perpetrators and predators. Horse racing is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, period.

  12. It looks bad. Perhaps we bring back “the cat” to punish human misbehavior. It’s use may look bad, but that fact that it hurts is of no consequence.

  13. Fine them for whipping the horse. You always see the pain in the horse’s body. It’s so searing. Once while taking a horse riding lesson, the instructor whipped ME several times. I got right off of the horse, even though I had waited three hours in the boiling heat for my turn. Yes, whipping is WRONG! Drugging horses is WRONG! MAKING HORSES WITH BROKEN BACKS WALK TO A TENT TO BE KILLED INSTEAD OF USING THE AMBULANCE AND STRETCHER THAT WAS RIGHT NEXT TO THE HORSE, IS ALSO WRONG! FINE THE HORSE WHIPPING CRETINS! WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALLED IT A WHIPPING POST? GREGG ALLMAN SANG ABOUT MISERY AS IF HE WERE “TIED TO A WHIPPING POST”. DO YOU THINK SLAVES THOUGHT BEING WHIPPED WAS JUST FOR MORE INCENTIVE? DO ZOO ANIMALS LIKE BEING WHIPPED? ASK MONTECORE, WHO ALMOST KILLED (SIEGFRIED AND) ROY! FINE AND PENALIZE THESE PEOPLE! ANY HORSE KILLED SHOULD HAVE ITS OWNER, TRAINER AND JOCKEY BANNED FOR LIFE.

  14. Of course whipping a horse is horse abuse, and it hurts. Horses tolerate the pain, fear is instilled so what happens to their temperment, their trust of humans. It hurts them no matter what they say, it must be banned. Often horses are run to fast, some even bleeding internally. I personally believe all horse racing needs to be ban. Its all about greed, about money, and control of magnificent animals who of course do not enjoy anything about horse racing.

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