Countdown on to new whip use regulations for all drivers

It's a month till Harness Racing New Zealand implements its new regulations regarding whip use on 1 October 2020.

In line with other jurisdictions around the world – most notably Australia - the changes are seen as an important step to improving animal welfare.

The changes come after months of discussion by a working group that included members from the Trainers and Drivers Association, RIU (Racing Integrity Unit) , JCA (Judicial Control Authority),
HRNZ management and Board.

To see the new regulations in action (click here to view)

The new regulations stipulate that “a driver may only apply the whip in a wrist -only flicking motion whilst holding a rein in each hand.” The tip of the whip must also be pointed forward in an action which does not engage the shoulder.

The only times a driver may cross the reins is when activating gear, or for safety reasons.

A “wrist-only flicking motion” means that no force is generated by the use of the elbow or shoulder when applying the whip. The forearm cannot be raised beyond forty-five degrees and the whip cannot be applied with overt force.

The new regulations mirror those recently announced by Harness Racing Australia that will come into force today (September 1).

"This is the way forward for our industry,” says Interim HRNZ Chief Executive Phil Holden, “animal welfare is critical to our future. What was once accepted behaviour can’t and won’t be tolerated now.”

High profile trainer-driver Ken Barron believes there is a mood for change. As a Trainers and Drivers Association representative on the working group he's all for the new rules though concedes “there has been a bit of resistance , though not real bad”.

One common criticism is that the new rules compromise safety but Barron disagrees.

“You have a rein in each hand as opposed to driving with both reins in one hand, so I think it’s actually safer.”

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) says to make the transition to the new regulations smoother, it will use the first month after the introduction of the new regulations, to educate drivers and remind them of the changes.

Chief Stipendary Steward Nick Ydgren confirms that the RIU accepts old habits can be hard to break.

“There is going to be a bedding in stage, we want to help educate and work alongside drivers.”

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