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Whips containing a microchip are being distributed to all professional jockeys by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to determine how effectively the whips absorb shock and how often they should be replaced.

The whip is a modified version of the already mandatory cushioned, shock-absorbing, foam-tipped whip introduced for jump jockeys in 2004 and for Flat jockeys two years ago (news, 5 April 2007).

The whips have been developed by Old Mill Saddlery in Northern Ireland with input from the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) and the RSPCA. The first batch, funded by the BHA, will be distributed in the next few months.

Tim Morris, director of equine science and welfare for the BHA, said: “Microchips will allow objective assessment of whip age, the number of races in which it has been used and ultimately avoid whip wear that might affect horse welfare.”

Kevin Darley, PJA chief executive, added: “The padding loses its ability to reform after a while so we felt a responsibility to collect data on whips’ shelf life.”

Microchipped whips will be identifiable by a red disc on the handle stating they are BHA-approved and will become mandatory in due course.

Worn whips will be returned to the manufacturer for product review.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 October, ’09)