To prevent overuse of the whip, jockeys in California will no longer be allowed to strike a horse more than three consecutive times without giving the animal a chance to respond.
The California Horse Racing Board, meeting at the Del Mar satellite wagering facility Nov. 19, passed the rule unanimously. Coming after several months of meetings and discussions between riders, owners, and trainers, the new rule has the support of the the Jockeys' Guild, said the guild's western regional manager, Darrell Haire.
The change, which follows passage of an initial rule in April, will take effect in the coming weeks for both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. A jockey found in violation of the new rule would be fined, but would not be disqualified.
Haire said jockeys at Del Mar during the current fall meet have been testing the change and that riders "have adapted."
"We feel comfortable with what we have come up with. It's really all about perception," Haire said. "It looks bad when a rider keeps after a horse. It's for the good of the game."
He noted that jockeys assented to an industry request in 2010 when the board changed the rules on the design of riding crop tips to a softer material. Commissioner Bo Derek noted that, according to track veterinarians, horses are no longer getting marks as the result of being hit.
Chairman Chuck Winner said he was pleased that various parts of the racing industry were able to work together to make the latest change.
"It's a long time coming, and it's a big step, in my view," Winner said.
California is not the first state to restrict use of the riding crop.
According to CHRB staff, Kentucky requires that a jockey show the horse the whip and give it time to respond before striking the horse, and then must give the horse time to respond before striking it again. New York also requires jockeys to show the crop to the horse before striking again.
All three states are in accordance with the Association of Racing Commissioners International model rule governing use of the whip.