Three of harness racing’s leading drivers met with the ORC Judges at Mohawk last week to discuss the application of the existing rules, and to look at ways drivers can have a proactive role in the development of an improved understanding of an appropriate use of the whip. Representing an ad hoc committee of WEG drivers, Jody Jamieson, Paul MacDonell and Luc Ouellette sat down on September 15 with Senior ORC Judge Tom Miller, and Judges John Harper and Don Lawrence.
“It was a productive, open and professional exchange of information,” said Judge Tom Miller. “The drivers recognize that the times are changing and what may have been a practice in the past is no longer acceptable today. One of the comments from the drivers is that the whipping rules are not being enforced consistently throughout the province. If this is the case, we can do a better job at rectifying this situation.”
For their part, drivers realize they may have to change driving habits before major rule changes come their way.
“We want to be proactive and we want to be responsible for our actions,” said driver spokesperson Jody Jamieson. “If we can determine what is acceptable, then we are prepared to respond.”
He also said that he will be encouraging drivers at other tracks in Ontario to take part in similar dialogues.
“Our group was very happy with how the meeting went. If drivers listen and respond accordingly, we’ll be part of the solution,” Jamieson said.
Earlier this month at the invitation of the Executive Director of the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC), over 50 representatives of the horse racing community attended a special working session to share their opinions on the use of the whip in Ontario horse racing. The meeting was an opportunity to make suggestions on the direction the industry should take, as well as suggest necessary changes to the rules and/or practices within the industry.
Among the “next steps” recommended by the group was the establishment of breed-specific working groups to further explore necessary changes. These meetings are planned for early October and will include cross-breed representation in each group.
Dialogue within the community and the public at large is continuing. The ORC is making an effort to monitor what is reported and is maintaining the information on the ORC website. People interested in this issue are encouraged to visit www.ontarioracingcommission.ca to see the latest comments.
As reported in earlier releases, the ORC believes this close examination of the degree of acceptability of the practice is both appropriate and timely, within the framework of social responsibility and concern for the welfare of the horse.