Leading Meadowlands driver George Brennan, a career winner of more than 5,400 races and $83 million in purses, submitted these comments regarding an upcoming USTA rule change proposal on whipping. The rule change proposal, which will be considered by the USTA board of directors at its annual meeting Feb. 3-6, follows his comments.
The USTA Whipping Rule, is currently being promoted by a relatively few individuals who do not earn their living driving or training horses. The new rule is a perfect example of a solution in search of a problem. The existing rules, properly enforced, more than adequately address any and all concerns for the horse’s safety and humane treatment.
Harness racing would not exist but for gambling, and every owner and patron expects the maximum effort from every horse they enter and every driver that drives. Restricting use of the whip, in my opinion, would compromise the driver’s ability to get “maximum performance” from his horse, and ultimately hurt the sport financially. Owners, trainers, drivers and the betting public will, again and again, complain of horses and drivers “not trying to win,” thus tarnishing the reputation of our sport.
Pompano Park adopted a “no whipping” rule in late 2008, and track handle has not increased. In fact, no whipping, along with the economy in general, may well be one of the causes of this year’s Pompano harness meet shutdown in May rather than months later. A summer harness meet will give way to a Quarter Horse meet, where jockeys will use crops throughout the race, getting maximum effort from their mounts!
I am adamantly opposed to any form of the abuse of horses, including excessive or illegal whipping. I feel strongly that the responsibility to prevent and curtail abusive whipping lies squarely with the judges, who must enforce the existing rules with heavy fines and suspensions for violations whenever necessary.
This is a rewritten rule that has been, for the most part, promoted by individuals who have never driven a horse, and perhaps never owned or even jogged a horse. For the drivers, trainers, and owners who depend on this sport for their livelihood, I sincerely hope you will join me in opposition to this potentially harmful rule.
USTA RULE CHANGE PROPOSAL #7
A proposal to amend Rule 18, Section (9) relative to whip and whipping by changing the wording in the first two paragraphs to read as follows:
“Drivers will be allowed whips not to exceed 4 feet. The use of snappers is not permitted. Drivers must keep a line in each handhold at all times during the race and have control of their horse at all times during the race.
Provided further that the following actions shall be considered indiscriminate use of the whip:
(a) Any blatant or exaggerated movements of the whipping arm which may result from raising the elbow above the driver’s shoulder height and/or allowing the hand holding the whip to reach behind the driver during the use of the whip.
The use of the whip other than the area inside and above the level of the shafts of the sulky and between the sulky shafts.
(c) Causing visible injury to the horse.
(d) Whipping a horse after the finish of the race.
(e) Whipping under the arch or shafts of the sulky or use of the whip as a goading device or placing the whip between the legs of the horse.
(f) The horse does not appear to be advancing through the field of horses.
(g) The use of a whip in matinee races, qualifying races, exhibition races and county fair racing unless permitted by the racing commission.
Source: USTA Staff