The whip should only be used for safety and encouragement and there is no obligation on riders to use their whip.

In the UK, any use of the whip must be appropriate, proportionate, professional, and take account of the Rules of Racing and guidelines laid down by the British Horseracing Authority.

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Following a 2022 report into the use of the whip, the rules regarding the use of the whip in British racing, Flat & Jumps, are as follows:

  • The whip can be used a maximum of  6 times in a Flat race or 7 times in a Jump race. Any more than this will prompt the stewards to review the ride

  • As well as the number of times the whip is used, The Whip Review Committee will look at the force with which it is used, whether it was used from above shoulder height, whether the horse has been given time to respond, the purpose for which the whip was used, whether the horse was in contention or clearly winning at the time it was used, and whether the whip has been used in the correct place (i.e. on the horse’s hindquarter rather than flanks).

  • Any rider found to have contravened the rules or guidance will face a period of suspension, and any rider picking up a third suspension in a six-month period will be referred to the Judicial Panel for penalty.

  • Should the whip be used four times or more above the permitted level, the horse and rider will be disqualified from the race.

France Whip Rules

France Galop announced in September 2023 there would be disqualifications for what it describes as "manifest abuse of the whip" would be introduced from September 1 onwards, a sanction triggered at nine or more strikes.

Unlike in Britain and the US, where similar regulatory changes have been made, any decision will be administered by raceday stewards before the 'weighed-in' announcement, meaning punters will be paid out on the revised result and not on the finishing order. This also has an indirect impact upon the horse racing betting markets.

France Galop unveiled a reduction in the number of permitted strikes reduced from five to four in February 2023, a measure which came into force on the Flat and over jumps from May 1.

Australia Whip Rules

Riders are restricted to five strikes before reaching the 100-metre mark, but after this point the whip can be used without restriction, often resulting in jockeys 'windmilling' in the closing stages.

Germany Whip Rules

Jockeys are limited to no more than five strikes during the entire race.

Japan Whip Rules

Japanese racing takes a discretionary approach. Use of the whip must not be improper, excessive, unnecessary or inappropriate.

Hong Kong Whip Rules

Hong Kong does not stipulate a set number of strikes. The rules state: "Any rider who misuses the whip or uses the whip in an improper manner will be subject to disciplinary action."

Ireland Whip Rules

Riders are limited to eight strikes, with the ninth triggering an automatic stewards' inquiry.

South Africa Whip Rules

Does restrict the number of times a jockey can strike a horse to 12, but that is higher than most other jurisdictions that take such an approach.

Sweden Whip Rules

Since April 2022 use of the whip for encouragement has been outlawed. Officials stated that "whip use in horseracing simply does not belong in the modern era".

USA Whip Rules

In the US the rules are far from united, varying from state to state.

In New Jersey they do not permit the use of the whip for encouragement and in California riders are restricted to six strikes in a race, but the majority of states have no set limit.

Want to place a bet on the Festival after reading up on the latest whip rule changes? Check out all our Cheltenham betting odds here!

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Steven is a sports and horse racing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 30 renewals of the Grand National.