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Who Speaks For The Horse?

The UK manages with 7 strikes, why can't we?

Over the years I have noted how the horse racing industry/business is quick to cite ‘the love of the horse’ in all of its actions.

The reality appears to me to be somewhat different and the animal is simply a commodity.

So says lifetime racehorse owner Garrick Bergh in a letter to the Sporting Post Mailbag.


Highlighting this issue are two incidents which I witnessed on Saturday at Turffontein; both of them involving jockey S Khumalo.

In race 5 the aforementioned jockey won on Phoenix. In doing so he produced what grandstand riders would usually describe as a ‘punishing ride’. Basically that’s a euphemism for a thrashing. I counted 14 strikes including one double strike in a single stride.

Clearly I am blind as the stipes actually counted 17 strikes as the report below records:

Jockey S Khumalo was charged with a contravention of Rule 58.10.2 (read with Guideline M on the use of the crop) in that he struck the horse PHOENIX more than twelve times in the entire race.

Jockey Khumalo signed an Admission of Guilt and a fine of R2000 was imposed.

When assessing the penalty, the Board took into consideration the number of times (17), as well as Jockey Khumalo’s record with regard to this Rule and Guideline and the fact that he won the race.

There are a number of disconcerting flags raised by this report:

  • I assume the fine was elevated from R1500 (which I understand to be the minimum or standard fine) as he exceeded the maximum strikes allowed by 5. So it’s R100 per strike for every additional blow above the limit? Interesting.
  • What exactly is jockey Khumalo’s record with regard to excessive use of the whip? My own (inexpert) observations would suggest he is one of the riders who uses the whip somewhat ‘freely’ on occasions.
  • The last comment was nothing short of chilling: ‘………..and the fact that he won the race.’ Does this imply that beating a horse left, right and sideways is condoned as long as you win? Mind boggling. As I stated earlier : A commodity to be exploited and abused. No more and no less.

Given the above one might have thought that Khumalo might have exercised a little restraint thereafter. You would be wrong.

In the very next race he rode a horse called Glider Pilot into second place. I counted 13 strikes. But don’t take my word for it as I’m blind if the previous race was any guide.

On this occasion the stipes saw nothing untoward and no comment was made. Or perhaps they might simply have fudged it as they would have been uncertain as to what sanction to impose following directly after the previous transgression? Then I remembered – the horse didn’t win! So who cares?

The whip guidelines are ridiculous and far too lenient when you consider that the UK manages with 7 strikes. Whenever I watch head on views of a finish I am often amazed how regularly races are probably lost by drawing the whip rather than won by simply riding out the horse.

On almost every occasion that I have introduced a ‘newbie’ to racing I am confronted with two uncomfortable questions:

  • Isn’t racing crooked?
  • Why is it necessary to beat animals that appear to be trying their best to win?

If this ‘sport’ eventually ends up in the dustbin it can reflect on how hard it worked to get there.

Ed – In fairness to the rider who has been singled out in Mr Bergh’s example, we attempted to elicit a response from S’manga Khumalo. We had no response. The NHRA has not responded previously to our questions as to how the quantum of the whip/crop fine is calculated. The views expressed by Mr Bergh are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post ot its editorial staff.

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12 comments on “Who Speaks For The Horse?

  1. Jc lee ching says:

    With all due respect, Mr Bergh makes a very valid point and warrants a proper explanation from all concerned.

  2. Donald Bradshaw says:

    Two comments in response to Mr. Bergh in respect of his article , the first is the obvious answer to his question which is ” the N.H.R.A. speaks for the horse ” and the other is ” the whips in use today are very light with which you can strike a human hand a number of times without any discomfit ” so I think we should bear this fact in mind when the ill termed ” persuader ” is used by the riders as the whip has other uses such as to straighten a horse in running ?

    The old system when the heavier whips were in use was that the vet would report on any markings visable on a horse and , if any , the exact nature of these markings and the N.H.R.A. would then take action against the rider based on this report. In my view this system seemed to work quite well !

  3. Michelle Scholefield says:

    As a complete outsider I also noticed the excessive use of the whip and wondered what had happened to the days of riding a horse with hands and heals. Was sad to watch.

  4. Tony Ridgway says:

    I, for one, would be happy if they ban the whip.

  5. Roy Kasseepersadh says:

    Donald Bradshaw’s comment probably settles the concern. I didn’t know that the whip is light weight and does not injure the horse. A lot of other people also probably don’t know too.
    Visible cruelty to animals obviously upsets and unsettles people. But if the crop specifications are explained to fans, then perhaps people won’t be too affected.
    What is the SPCA thoughts about this matter? I think they would be the best people to clarify.

  6. Jonathan Shaw says:

    Very good point Donald

  7. Keith says:

    How is it possible that a jockey gets fine 2000 for overuse of the whip and wins the race.then you get another jockey that gets fined 50000 for not using the whip enough and wins the race.there is something very wrong at the moment in sa horse racing .

  8. Kate Peskens says:

    Perhaps Donald would like to be the guinea pig and test his theory re the “light” whip. In show jumping more than 2 strikes results in elimination from the competition. It’s time racing came to the party and put their money where their mouth is re that horse welfare is paramount. Kate Peskens

  9. Donald Bradshaw says:

    Hi Kate , I have in fact tested the light whip which all race riders now use on my hand as described otherwise I would not have made the comment. I did this test after I saw a show on the new whips and Peter Muscutt who is a race horse trainer struck his hand a number of times in a demonstration.

    You cannot compare show jumping to race riding as they are two very different sports and disciplines.

    In my view the maximum 12 strike rule protects the race horse and I believe this should be coupled to the on course vet examination of race horses for any wealt markings that may have been caused after the race.

  10. JAY says:

    If S’Manga Khumalo loose on a favourite ” He is a bad rider,costing the punters and owners money. When he try his best certain group people try their best to find faults in him. How possible is a guy like him be so good.NHRA is there to do this job yet we wish this jockey in particular should be destroyed as was with the likes of L Nhlapho, M Maphabga etc. Khumalo is a senior jockey who won almost everything however he deserve the opportunity to make these mistakes as do the likes of Piere, A Marcus and Gavin Lerana who makes even more visible and costly error than all of them especially on odds on fovourates.
    Can our country grow this habit out and leave S’manga alone. He is just a complete and a good jockey for us to try and destroy. He is not the first nor the last to use the whip excessively yet this is the first letter to raise this matter by the complainant.

  11. bob kistnasamy says:

    Khumalo can be brilliant if he wants to. He has shown this on occasions. However, he can be terrible and from a distance one can determine when he is not going to win. From a personal perspective, I have found him to be unreliable and inconsistent.

    He used to be a regular rider/stable jockey for Sean Tarry/Chris van Niekerk.
    What happened to the partnership??? And then the long suspension!!

    Khumalo has a great opportunity and the potential to be one of the top jockeys in SA. Perhaps it is time, he has realised that.

  12. Geoff Logan says:

    I am a great believer in riding with hands and heels rather than the whip. The best component of this style of riding is Pierre Strydom and if my memory serves me correctly he has won the most races in SA. I watched Grant Van Niekerk today, especially in the second race at Kenilworth. What a great ride and guess what. No whip.

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