RCI Strengthens Rule Restrictions on Crop Use – Issues Guidelines for Officials

Jockeys will be prohibited from using the riding crop more than two consecutive times before being required to wait three full strides in order to give the horse a chance to respond under an expanded Model crop Rule adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) last week.

The modified rule tightens restrictions already in place but clearly says that any use of the crop to “urge” the horse must be limited.   The new RCI Model Rule continues to rely upon the judgement of the Stewards as to when to impose sanctions, but is clear that using the crop more than two consecutive times or not waiting three full strides before reuse is to be regarded as a rule violation.

The RCI did not include an overall strike count in the actual rule but did approve corresponding guidelines to advise officials that use of the crop more than six strikes during the race is something to be assessed.   The RCI Board did not want to remove the authority of the Stewards to exercise judgement based on the specific instances of the race but did want to provide guidance as to when to start questioning the possibility of overuse.

“If our accredited Stewards cannot judge when a jock has crossed the line then perhaps they should not be in the stand,” said former jock and racing official Doug Moore who is Executive Director of the Washington State Racing Commission and Chair of the RCI Rider and Driver Safety Committee.

“If the officials fail to exercise their responsibility in this matter then the feeling at the meeting was that the matter must be reviewed up top in assessing someone’s job performance and deciding whether to keep them on.”

“Several years ago we changed the riding crop requirements to rely upon poppers which provide an audible stimulation to the horse in addition to the visual one of showing the horse the crop,” said RCI Chairman Tom Sage.  “As a result, it is extremely rare to find a horse with evidence of crop misuse coming in off the track.”

“In helping to protect the horse we may have created an opposite impression with the public as they now hear the noise coming from the crops,” he  said.

RCI President Ed Martin noted that testimony from the Jockey Club as to public perception was taken to heart and the regulators found it compelling to help address that by defining clearly what the chance to respond should be.

“The image of someone wailing away on a horse coming down the stretch is not a good one for a sport struggling to assert a positive image.   But controlled and limited use with three full strides to respond was something the regulators believed would help mitigate that,” he said.

There was resistance to putting a hard strike limit in the Model Rule to emulate what Maryland and Delaware have enacted.   Some jurisdictions felt that it would be deemed arbitrary and not withstand legal challenge in their states.   Others questioned the “magic” of the number 6, asking why not 5 or 7 or 8?   The collective wisdom was to use a strike limit as a guideline and leave the judgement in the hands of the officials as every case is individual, especially when you consider different track lengths.

There was universal agreement that any abuse of the horse in any way must be severely addressed.    The RCI committees intend to develop progressive penalty guidelines in this area in the coming months to ensure that multiple violations are deterred across the system.

“We appreciate the input we have received on this issue from countless individuals and organizations like Breeders Cup, the Thoroughbred Safety Alliance, the Jockey Club, the AQHA, the Jockeys Guild and our regulatory veterinarians,” said RCI Chair Tom Sage.

“We believe we have found a balance that protects the horse, mitigates perception problems, and maintains the essence of a sport where every horse runs its best in every race,”  he said.


 Adopted 12/4/2020 – changes in red.

ARCI-010-035 Running of the Race E(7) – Use of Riding Crop.

(7). Use of Riding Crop

(a)    Although the use of a riding crop is not required, any jockey who uses a riding crop during a race shall do so only in a manner consistent with exerting his/her best efforts to obtain a maximum placing that affects purse distribution or wagering pools.

(b)    In all races where a jockey will ride without a riding crop, an announcement of such fact shall be made over the public-address system.

(c)    No electrical or mechanical device or other expedient designed to increase or retard the speed of a horse, other than the riding crop approved by the stewards, shall be possessed by anyone, or applied by anyone to the horse at any time on the grounds of the association during the meeting, whether in a race or otherwise.

(d)    Riding crops shall not be used on two-year-old horses before April 1 of each year.

(e)    The riding crop shall only be used for safety, correction and limitedencouragement, and be appropriate, proportionate, professional, taking into account the rules of racing herein.  However, stimulus provided by the use of the riding crop shall be monitored so as not to compromise the welfare of the horse.

(f)    Use of the riding crop varies with each particular horse and the circumstances of the race.

(g)    Except for extreme safety reasons all riders should comply with the following when using a riding crop:

(A)   Initially showing the horse the riding crop, and/or tapping the horse with the riding crop down, giving it time to respond before using it;

(B)   The riding crop shall not be used more than twice in succession and the Having used the riding crop, giving the horse must be given a chance to respond before using it again;

i. “Chance to respond” is defined as at least three complete strides and one of the following actions by a jockey:

1.   Pausing the use of the riding crop on their horse before resuming again; or

2.   Pushing on their horse with a rein in each hand, keeping the riding crop in the up or down position; or

3.   Showing the horse the riding crop without making contact; or

4.   Moving the riding crop from one hand to the other.

(C)   Using the riding crop in rhythm with the horse’s stride.

(h)    When deciding whether or not to review the jockey’s use of the riding crop,

Stewards will consider how the jockey has used the riding crop during the course of the entire race, with particular attention to its use in the closing stages, and relevant factors such as:

(A)   The manner in which the riding crop was used

(B)   The purpose for which the riding crop was used

(C)   The distance over which the riding crop was used and whether the number of times it was used was reasonable and necessary

(D)   Whether the horse was continuing to respond.

(i)    In the event there is a review by the Stewards, use of the riding crop may be deemed appropriate in the following circumstances:

(A)   To keep a horse in contention or to maintain a challenging position prior to what would be considered the closing stages of a race,

(B)   To maintain a horse’s focus and concentration,

(C)   To correct a horse that is noticeably hanging,

(D)   To assure the horse maintains a straight course, or,

(E)   Where there is only light contact with the horse.

(j)    Prohibited use of the riding crop includes but are not limited to striking a horse:

(A)   On the head, flanks or on any other part of its body other than the shoulders or hind quarters except when necessary to control a horse;

(B)   During the post parade or after the finish of the race except when necessary to control the horse;

(C)   Excessively or brutally causing welts or breaks in the skin;

(D)   When the horse is clearly out of the race or has obtained its maximum placing;

(E)   Persistently even though the horse is showing no response under the riding crop; or

(F)   Striking another rider or horse.

(k)    After the race, horses will be subject to inspection by a racing or official veterinarian looking for cuts, welts or bruises in the skin. Any adverse findings shall be reported to the Stewards.

(l)    The giving of instructions by any licensee that if obeyed would lead to a violation of this rule may result in disciplinary action also being taken against the licensee who gave such instructions.

ARCI Riding Crop Guidelines for Stewards

Adopted 12/4/2020.

In addition to the rule restricting crop use to two consecutive instances before giving a horse the opportunity to respond as defined as three full strides:

  • A jockey may use a riding crop in an underhand position on the hind quarters or shoulder without the wrist rising above the shoulder during a race prior to the final 1/4 mile of the race; or with both hands on the reins to tap the horse on the shoulder.
  • A jockey may use the crop as necessary to control the horse for the safety of the horse and rider.
  • A jockey who elects to use a riding crop for limited urging, except as permitted above, should not use the crop more than six times during the race.