Expert: Of Course, the Whip Hurts

“Last year more than 100,000 people attended the Melbourne Cup, with more than 3 million watching the race on TV in Australia alone. This would have to make whipping in horse-racing the most public form of violence [italics added] to animals in Australia today, but most people don’t seem to notice it.” (Dr. Paul McGreevy, The Conversation, 10/28/14)

As advocates, it can be easy to get lost in any number of Horseracing’s sordid aspects: 2-year-olds, drugging/doping, corrupt “connections,” negligent vets, claiming races, etc. But for me, focus should be trained on three above all:

First, Horseracing kills horses. Lots of them, every day. And this says nothing of the multiple thousands of recently “retired” who are bled-out and butchered each year.

Second, (daily) life for the typical racehorse is unfathomably mean: Locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day, racehorses, according to experts, suffer similarly to human beings kept in solitary confinement.

And third, the horserace itself exists, can only exist, through force – the primary instrument of which is a whip. A whip. On this, Racing’s age-old lie (painless “guide”) has conditioned otherwise decent people to ignore their very senses, eschew a common sense. Well, this is intolerable. So at the risk of insulting the intelligence of many of you, let me state (shout) what should be the clear, the plain, the obvious: Whipping a domesticated (enslaved) animal – any domesticated animal, for whatever concocted reason – is cruelty defined. Absolutely, unequivocally, beyond all doubt.

Sadly, though, some still ask for “scientific proof.” Enter Paul McGreevy – veterinarian, ethologist, and professor at the University of Sydney. Follows are some highlights from a McGreevy-penned article that originally appeared in The Conversation.

“Given there is no evidence to show that whipping horses doesn’t hurt, I decided to find out whether having my leg struck with a racing whip, as hard as jockeys whip horses, would cause me pain and distress.

“Well, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, and the thermographic images I took clearly show heat at the site of impact. In the image below you can see white areas of inflammation in my upper leg 30 minutes after it was struck – only once.

“My view is that – because there is no evidence to the contrary – we must assume that, just as I felt pain and distress from the impact of the padded whip, similar whipping in a horse would also cause pain and distress.

“Representatives from the racing industry will doubtless say horses have thick skin and are therefore immune to pain from whip impacts but there is actually no evidence of such pain resistance in horses. Indeed, horses can feel a fly on their skin such that it triggers a characteristic shake called the ‘panniculus reflex’.

“As sports journalist Patrick Smith recently wrote: ‘If whips didn’t cause pain there would be no use to them'”.



  1. The idea that the whip does not hurt is false. The rationalization of the jockeys, owners, race fans is hard to take. It is time to end horse racing and stop the abuse and violence inflicted on the horses. Wise up all involved in the abuse and get compassion rather than lining your pockets with money from the spectacle of horror. Shame on you for your sordid rationalization and continuance of the abuse.

  2. Great post on one of my “favorite” topics: BEATING EXHAUSTED ANIMALS WITH STICKS. The ethically-vacuous, gambling-addicted cavemen still involved in making excuses for this blatant animal cruelty known as horse racing are ALL flat-out impotent to defend this abomination. Most just refuse to discuss it, because, like everything else about their anti-sport, it cannot be made acceptable to ANYONE with critical thinking skills, common sense, and even a shred of humanity, decency and empathy.

    Beat anyone — or any being — with a stick? As a motivator? And then try to sell it as a SAFETY MEASURE? Racing creeps are even more demented, degenerate, and violent than the public now knows. While our culture has turned the corner from dog fighting, captive big cat “performances” and “trained” whale shows, the horse racing hypocrites are frantically “educating” potential newcomers (helpful hint: there aren’t any) that the BEATINGS ACTUALLY SAVE HORSES’ LIVES. Gutsy, huh? Hell, I don’t think even HUMAN slave traders in the pre-Civil War South would have tried to suggest that “whips don’t hurt,” and that they’re “a necessary safety tool for the benefit of those on whom they are used.”
    But, hey. Got to keep those all-important, necessary American traditions alive and in use. Don’t we, dinosaurs? And, if the U.S. animal-loving public won’t accept the notion of Safety by Beating, well, you’ll still have a real strong “motivator” at your disposal to help convince them. Just be sure and tell them, as they’re being whipped, that it’s for their own safety;)

    • Yes, Kelly, the whining from jockey Mike Smith in his letter to the CHRB regarding their new WHIPPING “rules”? – outright ridiculous and telling all at once! So when Smith sobs; “we are the people who are risking our lives [by riding racehorses]”, what does that say about the horses they are riding? – their lives aren’t “risked”, as well? Better watch what you’re admitting to, Mr. Smith, in all that whining you’re doing.

      Then in regards to what the new CA whipping rules call for…1), only underhanded striking of the horse with the whip at or below shoulder level of the jockey and 2), a race maximum of six strikes with hands off the reins (there is no limit to how many times the jockey can strike the horse on his/her shoulder while both hands are holding the reins), Smith stated; “we strongly believe that more than one of us will suffer a serious injury, or even possibly death, from your new rule”…WHAT?!? – because they cannot whip the horse overhanded? – with greater force coming from above the shoulder? – and with increased frequency? Smith continued that the new rule is “unsafe” and imposes “increased dangers”. I guess Smith was being excessively SAFE when he excessively WHIPPED Midnight Bisou in the Saudi Cup several months ago.

      (But if these new whips are mere pool noodles – “the welts and cuts have almost been completely eliminated”, says Smith – why not whip away? – why bother, CHRB, with a new rule and all of the grief the little fellas are giving you over it?)

      • Great points, Joy. Even the CHRB is conscious enough to see how their horse-killing game is circling the drain in California first and fastest. So they’re scrambling to hurl about a half-dozen Hail Marys in a futile attempt to keep their own asses afloat:
        “New ways to tally the dead horses! New rules on drugging the horses! New rules on beating the horses! New, non-existent, forced track closures for the safety of the horses!”
        All of it is bluster to try to convince the voting public what a safe, wholesome, family-friendly and humanitarian endeavor it is that they’re supposed to be regulating. Instead, they’re showing us just how much Cal Racing Cares: by COUNTING WHIP STRIKES. Yeah, that should sway the public not to vote their sick game into extinction;)

  3. I shared this a few days ago but will do so again as it’s pertinent to this post…

    From the April 19, 2019 New York Post article titled “Jockey suspended for whipping rider ‘more than’ horse”, this; “[Jockey] Morales testified he had four welts on his right thigh from [jockey] Cohen’s whip.”

    Welts left (even with the skin protected with riding breeches) from the whip – now imagine what the thin-skinned TB’s body endures with that same whip and NO protection.

  4. The physical aspect of whipping/beating a racehorse is painful as shown above.
    However, there’s an emotiona/mental aspect as well.
    Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person (in this case a voicelss, defenseless racehorse) to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is often associated with situations of power imbalance in abusive relationships.
    As previously noted, and backed up by scientific evidence, most all racehorses get ulcers directly due to the high stress of the horse racing environment and its repercussions.
    The cruel whip has lots to do with this psychological trauma.
    Furthermore, many racehorses are on anti-anxiety drugs and tranquilizers especially the babies – does that surprise anybody?
    This is precisely why they keep their vet/treatment records secret because if the public was ever exposed to the long list of drugs used on racehorses daily they would be appalled.
    Mike Smith and the racehorse beating jockey colony has a problem with the rules because it changes the abuser/abusee relationship dynamic with the racehorse.
    It’s suddenly creating an imbalance of power that the jockeys had over the racehorse and the abuser needs the abusee.
    Mike Smith beat American Pharaoh 32 times consecutively in the stretch at Keeneland Racecourse with zippo repercussions because Kentucky has no whipping rules so this example exemplifies the enablers of the abuse from the racing commissions to the owner/trainers, spectators and gamblers.
    How can anybody watch that stretch run and think that’s it okay?
    You would have to be mentally deranged or sadistic, in some capacity, to view this as acceptable.
    A jockey can whip a racehorse as many times as they want in Kentucky even beating out their eyeball I suppose.
    This coming from a state who claims to “care” and “love” their racehorses – chuckle, chuckle.
    Anyways, the whip is a torture device (physically, mentally, emotionally) that belongs in the gallows of a midevil castle, but one would hope that we’ve evolved as a society – not horse racing.
    Take the whips, the abuse, corruption, doping and misuse of public funds and toss them all in a manure pile where they belong because this antiquated business model had its day and needs to go.

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