Abby Rugg

Name: Abby Rugg
Qualification: Gold Standard NCTJ Multi-Media Journalism Diploma. (Including 100 words-per-minute shorthand)
Employment: Worked at BBC Sport and Deltatre for London 2012.
Future Aim: To work in broadcast/production television.
Blog: Started in November 2011. Published on The Sports Investor and Value Horse Tips. Please comment on a post or follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Whipping up a debate with Sussex trainer Diana Grissell

Local Sussex trainer Diana Grissell gives her view the use of the whip in horseracing
THE BRITISH Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that jockeys could lose a percentage of their prize winnings and their riding fees if they break strict new whip rules.
Jockeys are now faced with further restrictions as to how many times they can use the whip. From October 10th 2011, the number of times a jockey’s whip can be used during a race will be reduced to eight in National Hunt races and nearly halved to seven times in flat races.  Additionally a maximum of five hits can be exercised in the final furlong or from the last jump.
But the BHA is still under scrutiny as discussions for the whip to be banned completely were rejected.
Local Sussex trainer Diana Grissell has been riding and training horses since 1976 and has strong views on the use of the whip in horseracing.
“I think the whip is very important; mainly as a corrective instrument for horses hanging badly or trying to look out to a fence – you need to remind it what to do. I would hate to ride in a race without a stick. It’s not painful for them; it’s just a reminder.”
“It is important that a whip is used in both flat and National Hunt races. With flat racing you need to keep the horse straight. With National Hunt you need the whip as back up to get a horse to jump properly and for it to concentrate on the fences. You also need to tell them when it is the end of the race.”
Diana is an accomplished lady jockey and was one of the first ladies to ride over jumps under Rules against professionals. Having been Champion Lady Rider in the 1978-79 season, she holds a clear and experienced opinion to why the whip is an uncruel method to encourage and correct a horse.
“Sometimes if a race is very close, you need to resort to the whip to get that extra inch out of a horse.”
A jockey’s whip is made of fibreglass or a similar flexible material, and coated in leather.
“The whip has been modified. They really are soft now. For example I was riding a horse the other day and it was being very naughty and going backwards towards a ditch. As I had my daughter’s racing whip with me I gave it a smack, which would usually make a horse jump forward, but it just kept going. It couldn’t feel it.”
Having been asked whether any particular change would happen to the attendance of a race meeting if jockeys weren’t allowed to use the whip, Diana exclaimed that the general public wouldn’t notice. “Instead they would find the results of a race inconsistent, so maybe they would notice that!”
The BHA clearly states that the whip can be used in racing only for safety, correction and encouragement. However, Diana believes that one particular rule should be altered for the benefit of the jockeys.
“I think they [the jockeys] should be able to hit a horse a maximum of three times after the last fence. This rule is a grey area at the moment. Jockeys cannot count when they’re concentrating on winning and the wind is in their face. If it was a maximum of three hits then everyone would know, and they can make best use of those three.”
The whip, when used correctly, is an essential element to why racing is such a greatly admired sport as around six million people attend just over 1,500 race meets in a year.
Stewards now have the power to automatically hand out suspensions to jockeys if the whip is incorrectly administered.
While it is in each jockeys right to use a whip for the safety of a horse, as well as for encouragement and correction, the BHA cannot ignore that public opinions are always changing. Diana argues that the majority of people involved in the sport will not be affected or put off by the whip, yet those who aren’t interested in horseracing are the ones who are against the use of the whip as they see it as cruel and unnecessary.

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