Originally Posted by KitEKats4Eva!
And what about the whipping? A study published regarding whipping in racing found that horses who are whipped in a race are less likely to perform well, and horses whipped from the start are almost never likely to win. I watched a re-run of the race because I have also heard that the horses aren't actually whipped, but the sound of the whip rushing past their ears is what is used.
I was happy to see that none of the horses at all were whipped until the last 250 yards or so, and only very minimally even then, with what looked like not much effort at all from the jockeys. But still - why whip them at all?
I wanted to respond in regards to the whipping. It looks vicious, but you have to remember that horses have thick hides, and in the middle of a race, they're surrounded by NOISE (pounding hooves, yelling jockeys) and chaos (being bumped around by a jock/horse duo that wants the rail more than you) and not to mention adrenaline. When you factor that in, being hit by a whip isn't as bad as you'd think. Yes, some jocks to overuse it, but they get punished for it as well (you get hefty fines if you bring your horse back with welts). And some horses need it, and some horses don't. The horse that was highly touted to win the Kentucky Derby in 2003, I personally believe he was one of the latter. In his last race, the Jim Dandy, he looked like he should have won it, but every time his jock brought the whip out, he'd slow down a bit. When the whip got put away, he'd speed up. When it came out, he'd slow down again. He ended up losing by a nose or so (I think?). When I looked back at the Derby, I noticed that he probably could have won if the jock hadn't used the whip. Funny Cide won, but Empire Maker was making a nice run but I noticed that every time the whip came out, his rush would slow down. When the whip went away, he'd focus again, but when the whip came out again, he'd slow. It makes me wonder, really. And there was one filly in 2001, Exogenous, who didn't like the whip. In her last race before the Breeders' Cup (the Beldame), she was running against two VERY fine mares, one of which was Spain, the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner. Spain and the other mare were fighting on the rail and on the outside, here came Exogenous. Her jock brought out the whip and bam, Exogenous slammed into Spain (who slammed into the other horse). The jock brought her back out, steadied her, the filly put on another burst, and then he brought the whip out again. Another bam, of Exogenous veering in away from the whip and into Spain. The jock figured it out then and put the whip away, and Exogenous pulled away to win easily. An inquiry was put up (to make sure the riding was fair to the other two mares), but it was upheld, and the connections of Spain and the other mare said that they believed Exogenous was the better winner that day (sadly, when she went to the Breeders' Cup, she got spooked coming onto the track and she reared up and flipped over, hitting her head and getting her leg caught in a gate. They detangled her after 10 minutes and took her back to her stall, but she started having seizures a week later and was put down. A sad story, especially when you look at pictures of her laying on the ground on the track, leg stuck in the gate, jock cradling her head, owner/trainer bawling with his head in his hands).
And some horses do need the whip. Case in point is the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic, won by Tiznow. He was battling with Giant's Causeway, and I think he would have won anyway, but during the stretch, Giant's Causeway's jock dropped his whip and the horse immediately slowed down and Tiznow got his head in front at the wire. I think I even remember reading at one point that Tiznow was a whip-needer as well. He loved to win by close finishes (he'd run a VERY similar race in the 2001 BC Classic, winning by a nose again against a different horse), but he needed the whip to get started on his run. It might have been Tiznow, it might have been a different horse, but I read a story once about one of the great jockeys of our time once needing the whip for a horse (because this horse wouldn't lift a hoof in the stretch until you gave a slap with the crop), but he'd dropped it. So he swung his hand back and smacked the horse on the rump and the horse took off (and I think ended up winning). The jock came back with a sore hand, though, lol. Without the whip, I think the horse would have finished 5th, but I don't remember. The whip isn't meant to be punishment, it's supposed to be encouragement, just like in other disciplines. The whip is an extension of your arm, another training aid. You have to remember that jocks can't use their legs (much) during a race, as they're all but sitting perched on the horse's back. The whip is meant to be a final cue given to the horse to tell him that now is the time to go.
Speaking of the whip being a last cue, I believe that's why no horse ever wins when the whip comes out in the early stages of the race. If that happens, it means the horse is already tiring, and his chances of doing anything in the race are already shot, whip or no whip. The jock just gives a last ditch effort (because you can be fined for NOT trying to get the horse to give a reasonable amount of effort; a way to fix race fixing [holding horse back] I guess. Of course, if the horse is sore or tired or "off," the jock has every right to just bring him back safely, but the jock is expected to try to get a healthy horse to put forth SOME effort, lol). You also have to remember that these horses are running at top speed, up to 44 miles an hour, so when the horse decides to play games, it's DANGEROUS. Running through the rail, running into another horse, running zig-zags, it can spell disaster for everyone involved. If your rein breaks, the whip is an excellent tool to keep the horse on the correct path until you can pull him up and get him away from the other horses (and thus keep them safe). If the horse bolts, the whip is, again, an excellent tool to get him to run in a safe path, rather than towards the outside or inside rail.
And I do agree with you about the horse's physical structure. Once the breeders stop breeding for speed rather than stamina, and breed to sound studs rather than weak-ankled, fragile-kneed studs, our Thoroughbreds will benefit GREATLY. It's just so sobering to look at pictures of the racers of the past and look at their thick legs and stockier bodies, and know that those legends are a thing of the past. *sigh* Those horses were hardier, they could run far more than the "tiring" 4-race seasons that we tend to get now (the old horses could run a full year, sometimes with only a few days rest between the races, though usually they got a rest during the winter and only ran during spring-summer). Nowadays, they don't run until summer, and they're out by early fall, with roughly 4-5 races in all that time. And if they get so much as a blemish, the owners and trainers claim the horse has "nothing left to prove" and he gets shipped off to stud. Pathetic. The claimers are the backbone of the sport, these horses tend to be hardier (or they aren't as valuable as the stakes winners, so more risks get taken), so they deserve a lot of cudos from everyone. Stakes runners are "Pansy Ponies" and even the fans of them don't expect much from them. Most all of us have quite a few claimers that we love to follow and adore, as those horses are reliable and you almost always know where to find them.
I apologize for the long post, but when I find these threads about horse racing on NON-horse racing boards, I just get overexcited and can't help myself, lol