The National Steeplechase Association has adopted a new whip rule beginning with its April 3 racing at Southern Pines, N.C. The new rule requires the use of a cushioned, shock-absorbent whip by all jockeys. The change in the rule follows that of the English Jockey Club and was created to improve the racing conditions for Thoroughbred horses competing in NSA events."We have never had a problem with jockeys over-using the whip, but this is a step we wanted to take for the horse," said Bill Gallo, NSA director of racing in a released statement. "These whips are proven to be more forgiving to the horse, and therefore will make racing safer and more uniform."According to the NSA, the new whip is 26.5 inches long, features a cushioned end of about 12 inches and weighs about 5.5 ounces. Each jockey will be given one free whip, paid for by the NSA Foundation, to start the season and all jockeys will use the same model."The new whips are a bit longer and not quite as long as some of the American whips, but it's not something you can't get used to," said David Bentley, a two-time NSA champion who rode in England for several years before switching to the U.S." "They are very effective and don't mark horses. If use of the whip becomes an issue, this new rule can only help."The NSA said public perception played a part in the decision, since many steeplechase race meets are attended by novice fans with little or no exposure to Thoroughbred racing on the flat where whip use is accepted as part of the game.