LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky horse racing officials tightened reins on the use of the whip in harness racing Monday by approving new rules for standardbreds they say are the nation's toughest.
Under the measure, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission passed by voice vote is a ban on certain kinds of whips and riding crops that have a snapper - strands of material at the end that can leave welts on horses. One-handed whipping by a rider also will be banned.
"Abusive whipping has become a cancer within our sport," commission member Alan Leavitt said. "Until we get rid of it, it's going to be impossible to gain the fans to replace the ones we've lost to attrition."
The changes don't apply to thoroughbreds, although the panel also is looking at those, and one Kentucky track is experimenting with less-dangerous whips this fall. There is some debate over whether to allow jockeys to strike the horse by lifting their arm above the head.
Bill Napier of the Kentucky Harness Horsemen's Association said standardbred racing has been harmed by the image of riders holding both lines in one hand and repeatedly striking the animals during the homestretch.
"It's a situation where we believe it will reduce both the appearance of abuse and actual abuse," Napier said.