The Thoroughbred Action Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association Aug. 28 recommended changes in riding crops and their usage for racing and training. Perhaps the biggest change is a recommendation for stricter enforcement of current regulation and penalties for non-compliance.
“Riding crops are a necessity in Thoroughbred racing, because they can help keep the horse under control,” said Tom Ludt, general manager of Vinery and chairman of the TAC. “But when the public sees a horse that is clearly non-competitive still being stung with the crop, racing projects the image of unnecessary abuse. Our committee listened to a number of trainers and riders, including some Hall of Famers, and came to the conclusion that everything we are recommending is in the best interest of the horse without compromising its competitiveness.”
The whip recommendations also include similar specifications on the crop as those recommended by The Jockey Club Safety Committee: It will have a maximum length of 28 inches; minimum diameter of 0.4 inches; the contact area of the shaft must be smooth; the flap (popper) must have similar shock absorbing characteristics to that of the contact area; and the weight must not exceed six ounces.
“One of the surprising findings to many members of the committee was that there is no consistency from state to state and in some cases from track to track on the crop itself,” said Ludt. “This is a small step in working toward a more uniform set of policies across all racing jurisdictions in an effort to improve our product, while offering increased protection for horse and rider.”
Another provision of crop limitations is there will be no use of the crop with the arm above the shoulder. Violation of that provision would also be subject to penalties. In addition, there are other recommendations for educational efforts for jockeys and stewards on use of the crop and inspection of horses following a race.
TOBA has membership in every state with a racing jurisdiction and plans to marshal its membership to work with racing commissions or authorities in adopting and enforcing these recommendations and rules that already are promulgated by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.
TAC also endorsed the recent change in the ARCI model rule on shoeing, which essentially bans the use of toe grabs taller than two millimeters on the front hooves. Violation would make the horse ineligible to start a race.
“Research is clear that the use of taller toe grabs can put more stress on the horse when it’s in its racing gait,” said Ludt. “Several groups, including The Jockey Club Safety Committee, have already recommended the restrictions, and we think it’s the right thing to do as well. Our membership will hardily endorse it, and we encourage all tracks in North America to adopt this as a house rule until individual state racing commissions begin to develop specific regulations.”