The series of articles, from different perspectives, is good and every one of the people who shared their opinion had some good points, in my view. I'll take a look at a few of them here:
1. It hurts the horse, so it's bad - I remember being at Woodbine one evening for the harness races. A three year old colt stormed home nicely to come third. His gait seemed a little off but it was a stout effort. After the race, in the paddock, the horse collapsed and had to be put down. He had blown both front tendons during the race. I don't think whipping 'hurts' a horse at the time it is done, and the Aussie study by animal behavioural experts seems to convey that. I suspect it may hurt later and looks like it hurts, and I realize the animal groups can make hay that it does hurt. But horses run through brick walls in the heat of battle, and I think that's not an issue.
2. Lazy horses need it - I know we live in an Oprah world where everyone gets a ribbon, but sports is merit based and only the strong survive. If your horse bleeds too bad to race, or needs to be beaten mercillously because he's lazy, his problems lie in his gene pool, and he probably needs to be a pleasure horse.
3. We know best - I've heard "let the participants decide what to do, the jocks know best". I think that opinion matters, but it should be taken with a huge grain of salt. If football players made up the rules, clotheslines and leading with a helmet would be legal and more and more players would be eating through a straw. Participants hate change because it means they have to change the way they have always done things. The culture, as Chris Mac notes in his piece, is very strong and these folks need to be listened to for their experience, but they need to be led, not appeased.
4. One Reminder or two are fine, more is overkill - I think common sense and the Aussie studies confirm this. If you yell "fire!" it's startling and you run. If you yell fire 32 times, you get a cry wolf response. Bang, bang, bang, bang successive times probably does nothing and looks terrible.
5. Bettors and owners think you're not trying - This has been proven to be much ado about nothing. Vociferous bettors or owners might think like that, but not the masses. Racing in Ontario has little whip usage. In harness racing you can barely tap them anymore. No one is complaining, handle is not down, and more and more track records and lifetime marks are set each year. It's a scare tactic that's used for the status quo, with no empirical evidence to back it up.
6. They're horses, they know what they're there for - I remember hearing from the trainer of Bettors Delight, a really good horse and sire in harness racing. He was a terrible trainer, at times unable to train in company in 2:25, no matter what you did. On race night he got his game face on and would be almost unbeatable. In Thoroughbred racing, bad morning trainers no matter what whip use, are very common, but on raceday they were new horses. I think this explains why track records are set without much whip use. The crowd, the other horses, pack animals and being conditioned, over and over and over again for that moment trumps a few whacks almost every time. Horses are horses, they're bred to race in packs, and they and animal physiology experts that tell us this fact should not surprise us.
Have a nice weekend everyone.