By Ron Mitchell From The Blood Horse

California has implemented what it says is the strictest regulation in the country governing the use of riding crops in horse racing, with a new rule to begin July 1.

Under the rule, jockeys will be required to limit their use of the riding crop (or whip) to three times in succession, and then pause to give the horse a chance to respond before using the crop again. The rule also includes previous restrictions limiting use of the crop to the shoulder and hind quarters, determined to be the least sensitive areas of the horse. (Read the new rule)

According to a release from the California Horse Racing Board, state racing industry organizations and The Jockeys’ Guild support the development, adding that stewards and representatives of the Guild have been working with California jockeys for nearly one year on adjusting their riding styles.

The CHRB said the effort has involved a review of racing videos and informing jockeys when their actions would have incurred a penalty under the impending rule. “Stewards report that jockeys are now in substantial compliance,” the CHRB said.

Violation of the rule will result only in sanctions to the jockey and no horse will be disqualified as a result.

While the new rule has been developed over a period of time, it comes less than two months after Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza was fined $300 for his use of the whip on Stellar Wind during her 5 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). Espinoza also was criticized for the number of times he used the whip on American Pharoah during the eventual Triple Crown winner’s victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). No action was taken as a result of the Derby ride after it was deemed Espinoza’s actions were permissible under Kentucky racing rules.

The CHRB previously had amended its rules on riding crops to require shorter crops with padded tips. (Read the rule here)