Equus and Monty Roberts!

Posted by Paul Moon in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Later this year we will realise a dream when we meet hero Monty Roberts in Gloucester but we thought we would share some of his thoughts on The Racing Horse site before that. He truly is the most remarkable man and both saint and saviour! We salute him and all that he stands for!

Using the whip on race horses is a very emotive subject. In the past we have always believed that it was most necessary for the jockey to carry one to encourage and correct a horse.

We have always disliked the beating of a horse and we received no pleasure watching Jason Maguire whipping Ballabriggs 15 times after the last fence to win the 2011 Grand National. That episode turned our stomach bringing our favourite sport into disrepute!

Monty Roberts view is: "It does not matter whether it’s racing or any other discipline, the whip is the whip.”

He continued: Equus, the flight animal, is about 50 million years old. If you accept the discovery by Dr. Louis Leakey of Lucy in the Olduvai Gorge, then humans are approximately 3.2 million years old. We must conclude then that horses got along just fine without human beings for 47 million years. We are quick, however, to use the term “problem horse,” a quite pompous statement from a species so junior.

A scientific fact is that horses are flight animals and, as the reader knows, they only have two goals in life (survival and reproduction). Horses do not often think strongly about reproduction during a race, which leaves us with only one facet of a horse’s existence, his goal to survive. Consider for a moment that we are human beings dealing with horses under circumstances extremely demanding and frightening to them.Knowing that they are vitally concerned with their own survival, we often conclude that the best course of action is to whip them and cause them pain in the hopes that it will get them to run faster.

I submit that this is not only a bad decision from a humane standpoint, but a worse decision where its effect is concerned. Horses are “into-pain” animals. Their natural tendency is to push into pressure, like a child does biting on hard bread when cutting teeth. We may frighten a horse the first few times we whip him in a race, but very soon he may resent the whip and back-up to it, actually causing him to run more slowly.

You so often hear the statement, “We need the whips for safety’s sake,” but, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth, because far more accidents are caused by whips than are ever averted by whips. In fact, if a jockey felt the need for a whip to guide the horse, why not use a spongy, Nerf whip so that no pain could be produced?

In a recent conversation with Trevor Denman (a race announcer at the Santa Anita race track), he said to me that he felt it would be a good idea if every time there was a disqualification, the newspaper should read that, “the horse ducked from the whip and interfered with the progress of another horse and was thus disqualified.” Trevor suggested that an extremely high percentage of disqualifications were caused by using the whip. Further, he said that if the bettors could understand that, they would be less apt to insist that jockeys use the whips to verify that they are trying.

Aside from whether it is effective or not, let us examine for a moment how we stand with the rest of the world on this issue. Nearly all the racing countries of the world are dealing with the issue of the whip in ways that suggest it will soon be obsolete. I believe Great Britain is down to five strikes now, while Sweden has restricted the use of the whip severely, and, I think, only in front of the girth. In Germany, it is interesting to note that all two-year-olds are ridden only with a soft Nerf whip, which is handed to the jockey as he leaves the weighing room. The United States is virtually the only country to fail to act on what has become an important issue to race fans the world over.

The third facet, and possibly the most important, is in the area of public perception. We, in racing, need to be pro-active. We need to realize that many potential race fans abhor the use of the whip and are turned off by our sport. What if we had whipless racing? Someone would be first, someone would be last and someone would be in the middle, exactly as it is with the whips. As for finding the genetic aptitude for racing, would you not prefer the winning horse to run out of a natural desire, rather than running from pain? And, wouldn’t we be more acceptable to our audience?

I believe the number of race fans would increase with a strong promotional program featuring whipless racing. As racehorse people, we often say we are giving the horse a chance to do what he loves best, run. I believe that is a true statement, but if it is what he loves best, why do we have to whip him to do it? We do not!

It is my opinion that the best jockeys would still be the best jockeys, and in fact, true horsemanship skills would come to the front if we were to eliminate whipping.

I sincerely believe that the buggy whips used at the starting gate cause far more trouble than good. I have spent a good deal of my life studying equine behavior at the starting gate and I am absolutely convinced that the elimination of the whip would actually make life easier for the starting-gate crews.

People love animals, and we are supposed to be a civilized species. Is it not time for us to consider changing some of our retained barbaric ways? We have stopped lashing prisoners and whipping small children. Is it not time that we stopped whipping our horses, flight animals, who have no intention to hurt anyone? My goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it—for horses and people too. Racing could lead the horse industry in this truly important area of humane treatment.

One interesting fact is that Barbaro ran the last 1/4 mile of the Kentucky Derby with the fastest time over that 1/4 mile since Secretariet without ever feeling the whip of jockey Edgar Prado. Prado never touched Barbaro with his whip, never asked him to do anything more than was necessary. His gentle handling of Barbaro had more to do with humane rather than competitive considerations, Prado says. “If he’s running real hard, why should he be punished? I’m a horse lover more than anything else.”

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6 Responses to Equus and Monty Roberts!

  1. Liam B says:

    Paul, I couldn’t agree more about the whip. It’s the reason that many people see horse racing as a cruel sport.

    If everyone decided not to use a whip, would they not all be equal?

    Also, good luck with the Monty Roberts meeting!

    • Paul Moon says:

      Liam

      You are right on both counts! Many people do not like seeing a horse being beaten up and this turns them away from our beautiful sport. Also, if everyone decided not to use the whip they would be an equal footing and from there it would favour the best horseman.

      Have my ticket to see and meet Monty on 2 November 2012 and cannot wait.

      Thanks for your comments…

      Very Best Regards

      Paul Moon
      The Racing Horse

  2. Thank you Paul for posting this. Remarkably, Monty wrote this article about 15 years ago and was a proponent of banning whips long before that. Some don’t know that Monty, the most famous violence-free trainer in the world, had world-renowned success in horse racing internationally for a large part of his career. The Queen of England endorsed his work in 1989 and she is a complete lover of horses. See the video on Monty’s homepage about the awards for non-violence around the world. http://www.MontyRoberts.com
    Many people aren’t aware that jockeys are often required by the laws of their racing boards to strike the horse lest they appear to be “throwing the race”. These out-of-date thoughts should be overhauled if racing is to survive as an industry. Many countries are figuring that out.

    • Paul Moon says:

      Debbie

      Please do not thank me for posting this piece – thank you for making everything available to me. You quite rightly remind me of the laws of the racing boards in conjunction with the phrase ‘lest they appear to throw a race’ and whilst these out-of-date thoughts are not yet in their death throes that time will come! If racing is to survive as an industry it must catch up with Equus and the wonderful work you and Monty are involved in.

      On a personal note I can only apologise to every losing horse I have ever backed for my previous ignorance. I cringe with embarrassment thinking about some of things I might have said in the past. Ye Gods!

      Debbie, I am not sure if you are aware of a certain broadcaster in this country called John McCririck where he is often perceived as a fool and a joke figure! I have always appreciated/acknowledged his love of the racing game and the horses themselves, he is most sincere in that aspect. He was the first to voice his opinion against the new whipping rules that have been put in place by the British Horseracing Authority. McCririck believes that the BHA missed an excellent opportunity to help boost its image by banning whipping of horses all together during flat and jump races.

      The infamous Channel 4 horse racing crtiic called the BHA ‘gutless’ in not going ahead and banning whipping altogehter. Instead the BHA has cut in half the amount of times that a jockey can whip a horse during a race in half for both flat and jump runs. He said: “This is nothing but a typical BHA review and compromise. We have been talking about this for thirty years. There is no other time on this planet where a person can hit an animal legally. It is all about the public’s image and perception of racing. It doesn’t look good for women and newcomers to the sport. I used to be in favour of whipping but not now. They believe that whipping the horse shows that they are trying to win. We only need a whip for steering and not to hit and punish.”

      Debbie, is it possible for John McCririck to be invited to the seminar in November? He would make for a formidable ally. He is also supports a charity called Greatwood which is for the rehabilitation of race horses.

      In any case, thanks for all your help to date.

      Very Best Regards

      Paul Moon
      The Racing Horse

  3. Yur Betty says:

    I am not a Royalist but the fact that Queen Elizabeth II has endorsed all that Monty Roberts does, thinks and believes in, not only endears me to Mr Roberts but also to Her Majesty. I also agree with Liam that as an animal lover myself I have struggled over the years to argue the case of my love of horse racing with people who think it is a very cruel sport. I am 100% in favour of banning whips. Keep up the good work Monty and Your Majesty.

    • Paul Moon says:

      Betty

      You have put it better than I ever could have done! Agree with every vowel and consonant…

      Best Regards

      Paul Moon
      The Racing Horse

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