When automobiles displaced horse-drawn carriages as the standard mode of American transportation early in the 20th century, a new cliché was born. As some invention or practice was supplanted by another technological advancement, it was said, "That went the way of the buggy whip." The riding crop—carried and used extensively by every jockey in the recent Breeders' Cup Championship Series—has moments when it seems destined for the same fate as its outdated cousin. Racing authorities and state governments around the nation and internationally have begun imposing restrictions on the use of the crop as well as prescribing how it must be made, applied to the horse, and how often it can be used.
While there had been verbal pushback against these mounting regulations, especially by jockeys, there had been no significant legal attempt to stop the new rules. That was, until November 5th, when the Jockeys' Guild hired an attorney and filed an appeal to reverse New Jersey's new regulations forbidding the use of whip except for safety.
The Guild represents jockeys nationally and, in this case, expressed great disappointment in the New Jersey Racing Commission through its lawsuit. Jockeys have expressed that the Commission did not seek input or foster any meaningful dialogue with racing jockeys prior to making the decision to implement the new regulations.
Joe Bravo, a long-time New Jersey jockey who is a member of the Guild, said, "We feel that the Commission completely ignored our pleas for compromise, which is disrespectful and disheartening."
The Commission's regulations state that a jockey may not strike a racehorse except to prevent a dangerous situation from emerging. Going forward, all jockeys in New Jersey are to use the 360 Gentle Touch crop designed by retired jockey Ramon Dominguez. The Gentle Touch makes a loud popping sound as it strikes a horse but causes no physical injury.
Jockey Guild President Terry Meyocks note that those on the Commission who voted for the rule changes have never ridden horse at full gallop in racing conditions. "Jocks risk their lives—not only their lives but the horses' live. They need to have input."
Jockey John Velazquez, who demonstrated his riding skills magnificently in the Breeders' Cup only hours after the suit was filed, said, "We strongly believe the rule . . . will have serious consequences and could result in even greater risks and dangers for both horses and jockeys. . . . the new rule actually disregards the safety of the jockey and the horse."
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