Catalyst, an Australian science show, recently ran this segment on the whip. The entire program is worth a look, but one quote in particular stands out. Australian Racing Board chief 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.”

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The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years ago, 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.


The following abuses were committed against Standardbreds at Hoosier Park. (The rulings come courtesy of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission.)

7/19/14, Lewayne Miller, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – no fine, 5-day suspension
From 5/13 to 7/1, Miller was “disciplined” three times for the same type of abuse. On this, his fourth act of cruelty in two months, he receives but a 5-day suspension.

7/26/14, Peter Wrenn, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

7/26/14, Dan Shetler, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

8/2/14, Luke Plano, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension
Back in May, Plano was disciplined twice within a week for whip abuse. He still drives.

8/9/14, Tyler Smith, “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

8/9/14, Tyler Smith (again), “Kicking” – $300 fine, no suspension
Back in June, Smith was disciplined for the same type of abuse. In other words, Smith was caught kicking three different horses in two months – and still drives.

9/9/14, Bradley Hanners, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – $500 fine, no suspension
Back in May, Hanners was disciplined for the same type of abuse. He still drives.

9/9/14, Walter Haynes, “Whip-bleeding/welts” – $500 fine, no suspension

9/10/14, Terry Cullipher, “Whip-excessive” – $200 fine, no suspension

9/13/14, Charles Conrad, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

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9/16/14, Boby Brower, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/8/14, Ross Leonard, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/9/14, Edward Hensley, “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon, “Kicking” – $200 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Whip-excessive” – $500 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Kicking” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/11/14, Donald Harmon (again), “Whip-excessive” – $200 fine, no suspension
That’s four acts of abuse by Mr. Harmon in a single day.

10/15/14, Charles Conrad (again), “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/21/14, Richard Plano, “Whip-indiscriminate” – $100 fine, no suspension

10/22/14, Peter Wrenn (again), “Whip-indiscriminate” – $200 fine, no suspension

This is Indiana harness racing.

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Some news from the California Horse Racing Board:

At Cal Expo (harness), “Driver James Kennedy appeared in the Stewards office to review his drive in the fifth race on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Driver Kennedy was aboard #1 ‘All American Solo’ who finished fifth (last) in this one (1) mile pacing event. Film review shows Driver Kennedy use his whip sixteen (16) times in the stretch on his way to a last place finish. The Stewards told Kennedy this was very excessive – DRIVER JAMES KENNEDY IS HEREBY FINED THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED ($100.00)* DOLLARS”

$100 for whipping a bringing-up-the-rear racehorse 16 times.

At Cal Expo, “Driver David Siegel appeared in the Stewards office in order to review his drive in the first race last night (February 28th). Siegel was aboard #1 ‘Gentle Dragon’ who finished sixth (last) in this event. Siegel whipped this ten (10) year old mare twelve (12) times in the stretch drive while steadily maintaining a last place position. The Stewards explained to Driver Siegel that this is using unreasonable and unnecessary force. Siegel did not agree… DRIVER DAVID SIEGEL IS HEREBY FINED THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED ($100.00)* DOLLARS”

$100 for whipping a 10-year-old mare 12 times in the stretch of a last-place finish.

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At Los Alamitos, “A formal hearing was conducted to address…an alleged violation of CHRB Rule #1902.5 (Animal Welfare). Heliodoro Robles is the owner of record for the horse You’re My Lady who died in her stall at Los Alamitos on December 9, 2014. The Necropsy Report found You’re My Lady had been in poor nutritional condition and had suffered from severe, chronic laminitis in all four legs. OWNER HELIODORO ROBLES IS SUSPENDED FOR THE TERM OF HIS LICENSES THROUGH JAN-2017 AND FINED TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS ($10,000)*”

$10,000 and a temporary suspension for torturing a horse to death.

At Santa Anita, “This ruling [$300 fine] was issued after [Kent] Desormeaux viewed video as the horses approached the starting gate for the sixth race yesterday. His horse, #5 QATAR’S PEARL, was not cooperating and was trying to ‘freeze.’ At this point Mr. Desormeaux hit the horse twice in the stomach. Unfortunately for the rider the pan camera was trained on him when the violation occurred. After viewing the video, Mr. Desormeaux readily admitted his mistake, stating that it was absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

“the wrong thing to do”

At Santa Anita, “Jockey MARIO GUTIERREZ is fined THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($300.00) for violation of California Horse Racing Board rule #1688 (Use of Whips – caused a welt) during the sixth race at Santa Anita Park on February 20, 2015.”

$300 for whipping to the point of a welt.

And finally, between Los Alamitos and Santa Anita in the week ending February 22nd, four not-identified athletes died. This is horseracing.

Family fun from the last couple days at the races:

In the 3rd Wednesday at Mountaineer, “WHIMSICAL KATE broke well and battled for the early lead…gave way inside the eighth pole, used up. VISCIOUS CIRCLE was hard used early vying for the lead, gave way in upper stretch finishing spent.”

“used up,” “hard used,” “spent”

In the 3rd yesterday at Fair Grounds, “D’BOLDEST [who “won”] was coaxed along while off the pace…rallied to the lead…while under a right-handed whip and drew away under strong urging. NILE QUEEN…moved out under a left-handed whip…secured the place…then pulled up in distress on the gallop out and was vanned off.”

“rallied to the lead…under a right-handed whip…drew away under strong urging”

“moved out under a left-handed whip…secured the place…pulled up in distress”

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In the 7th last night at Penn National, “RELENTLESS RUSH stayed inside, was put to the whip entering the far turn then stopped after three quarters. DIAMONDSDIPLOMAT was put to the whip while not far back into the far turn then stopped suddenly, pulled up in the stretch…”

“put to the whip”

Sport? Only to the callous or willfully ignorant.

A family-fun Sunday at Fair Grounds in Louisiana:

In the 1st, “TRIDENT HERO…proved best [won] under a right-handed whip”; “UNION EXPRESS [who placed] was urged along while off the pace…came under a right-handed whip…was switched to a left-handed whip…”

“proved best under a right-handed whip”
“urged along while off the pace”
“came under a right-handed whip”
“switched to a left-handed whip”

In the 2nd, “FAHNE [who won]…got up late under strong handling”; “SERGUSH was urged along while off the pace…broke down [probably dead]…”

“got up late under strong handling”
“broke down”

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In the 4th, “BAD NEWS BROWN was very reluctant to load…came under urging…capitulated”; “TIGER CIRCLE was bounced around between rivals…”

“very reluctant to load”
“bounced around between rivals”

In the 5th, “CINNAMON SPICE [who won]…came under a right-handed whip, widened under the whip…much the best.”

“came under a right-handed whip, widened under the whip”

In the 6th, “KATIE B’S WAGER…came under the whip…was overtaken…”

“came under the whip”

In the 7th, “STREET SPICE [who won]…was urged along while near the inside…advanced under urging…vanned off after race”; “WATCH MY SMOKE…pursued the leader under the whip into the final furlong and weakened.”

“advanced under urging…vanned off”
“pursued the leader under the whip”

In the 9th, “DONTMESSWITHWILLIE [who won]…set the pace under pressure…drew off under a right-handed whip…proved much the best under steady urging.”

“set the pace under pressure”
“drew off under a right-handed whip”