The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that a modified whip will be made available to British jockeys over the next few months. Initially, the new whips will be supplied to flat jockeys, followed by jump jockeys.
The new whip, which is a modification of the existing cushioned whip, will include a microchip of the same type used to identify racehorses. This will allow the Authority to monitor how the whips wear. Of particular interest is how well the cushioning properties last.
Enhancements have also been made to the grip following feedback from jockeys. Microchipped whips will carry a distinctive red disc on the handle containing the text ‘British Horseracing Authority Approved’.
The cushioned whip was introduced in 2004 for Jump racing and in 2007 for Flat racing. Its success has been shown by the widespread international adoption of the principle of cushioned whips in horseracing and other equine sports.
The modified whip has been developed with manufacturers Old Mill Saddlery of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, who also produced the original cushioned whip.
The first batch of modified whips will be funded by the BHA and supplied to all licensed professional jockeys at no cost to themselves. Jockeys with more than 500 rides per year will receive two whips.
Once the whips have been distributed to all jockeys the Rules of Racing for the specification of whips will be updated to include the requirement for a microchip.
Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the Authority, said:
“At present we do not know if the cushioning effect is sustained over time. Identification of individual whips via the microchip will allow objective assessment of whip age, allow estimates of the number in races where it has been used and ultimately avoid any whip wear that might affect horse welfare.
“The use of these microchips for whip identification is a result of racing’s ongoing positive co-operation with the Professional Jockeys Association and our dialogue with the RSPCA.
“We will continue to consult with the PJA on the Rules and Penalties for any whip offences, and work closely with the PJA and Racing Schools on education over proper use of the whip.”