Industry Notice - Whips

30 August 2017

Harness Racing Considers Wrist Only Whip Action

Australia’s harness racing industry is moving towards a wrist-only use of the whip in racing following extensive consultations with industry participants.

The wrist-only plan comes after Harness Racing Australia said that, following the consultations, it became clear that it could not meet the 1 September deadline for implementing whip free racing.

The move to whip free racing has been put on hold because of widespread driver and Steward concerns about maintaining safety for drivers and horses.

The “wrist only” plan will be coupled with strict penalties as well as a further review of the design and composition of the approved whip.

HRA CEO Andrew Kelly said the industry had made significant progress in restricting whip use since 2010 and is a global leader in the moderated whip use debate.

Increased restrictions over this time have meant drivers must always hold reins taut and in both hands to prevent “loose reining” or freeing an arm to use the whip.

More recent restrictions have limited whip use to a “wrist and elbow” action without moving the whip higher than shoulder level.

The latest move to “wrist only” has been agreed in principle by all jurisdictions, but the details of how to precisely and consistently define and monitor a “wrist only” action is still to be worked through.

“For those who want a total removal of the whip, we recognise it’s not a perfect outcome, but this is a substantial and meaningful step towards balancing the needs for driver control and safety with improved welfare outcomes,” Mr Kelly said.

“The wrist-only action will give drivers more time to become accustomed to further moderation of the whip. It is the next logical step in a progression of measures that will continue to moderate the way the whip is used.”

Mr Kelly said the decision of the Annual General Meeting of HRA in October 2016 to remove the use of whips from racing as a performance tool remained in place, and that HRA would continue to work with State bodies and consult with the industry in this important issue.