France to lower permitted number of strikes from eight to six
France Galop have confirmed the maximum permitted number of strikes with the whip will be reduced, with the new rules taking effect from February 1.
The current limit of eight strikes has been on the statute since 2005 and, although there has been no spate of high profile incidents, the decision to go to six has been taken by stewards after consulting with the Jockeys' Association.
The move will take the French rules below the levels at which stewards in Britain may consider taking action - currently the maximum permitted number is seven on the Flat and eight over jumps - while Irish officials will usually hold an inquiry if a jockey goes above 12 strikes.
"This reduction in the number of permitted strikes is part of a framework to reduce whip abuse stretching back a number of years," said France Galop director of raceday operations, Henri Pouret. "In the past we have come down from 12 to 10 and then eight. There has also been the introduction of padded whips and the ban on raising the arm above shoulder height in order to lessen the impact on the horse."
France will continue in its policy of applying stricter penalties to apprentices and amateurs as part of the philosophy of deterring what may be described as "bad habits," while the relatively lenient sanctions available to stewards with regard to professional riders are to set to be made only marginally more severe.
A first offence will remain subject to a €75 fine while a second minor infraction within a six month period (defined as going up to two strikes over the permitted maximum) will be inreased from a €250 fine to an automatic one-day ban.
"We haven’t seen repeated abuse of the current rules in France regarding the whip and jockeys riding in France respect the rules to a great extent," said Pouret.
"Of course there are occasional infractions but they remain just that, occasional. So you can’t characterize this as a reaction to any perceived problem on the part of the stewards by imposing more restrictive measures. It is the understanding that we must do more on horse welfare and for the image of racing."
The British rules stipulate the number of strikes after which an inquiry may be called, while allowing stewards discretion in whether to count all of them as being effective.
All three jurisdictions have similar wording to their rules in terms of allowing a mount sufficient time to respond, its use in a losing cause and also where on a horse the whip may and may not be used.