Davy Russell: ‘Education is vital to improve whip use, not continually changing the rules’


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  • Successful Irish jockey Davy Russell discusses his “unplanned” comeback and shares his thoughts on the recent changes to the whip rule in British racing

    Returning to the sport after announcing my retirement in December wasn’t something I’d planned, but it all just happened very quickly after Jack Kennedy broke his leg in a fall a couple of weeks ago.

    This is such a crucial time of year and I hadn’t been off for all that long, and my knowledge of all the horses and owners is there. If I’d been finished for any longer, I don’t think I’d have come back, but I hadn’t lost any fitness and I didn’t have to do anything drastic to get back into the swing of things. So it was good timing in one sense, but far from an ideal situation to be in for poor Jack; hopefully we can make the best of it.

    I had been enjoying my retirement and we’d got a couple of new ponies so the kids and I were having loads of fun. Luckily they understood the situation and took it well – we’re still getting stuck in with the ponies, but it’s such a busy time of year and it’ll get busier for the next couple of weeks.

    I had switched off completely from the sport, but it was just a matter of flicking the switch back on again. I’m just taking it day by day and keeping the ship afloat until Jack returns, but riding my first winner again felt good – that’s what it’s all about and it’s the best feeling in the world when you get it right.

    Education on the use of the whip

    There has been much discussion about the introduction of new whip rules in racing and it’s a tough one – it’s hard to know where the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) are going with it.

    Any correction in the right direction to educate riders on the use of the whip is the right thing. But the first set of rules that they’d planned to bring in were going to be very difficult to adhere to.

    Putting a number on the amount of times you can use the whip is what I don’t agree with – instead, jockeys need to be educated when to use it appropriately. Whether you’re on a pony, a young horse or an old horse, using the whip at the wrong time can be as ineffective as it can be effective using it at the correct time. Carrying the stick is very important, so learning how to use it is vital and it must start at grassroots level.

    For jockeys, it should come down to being taught when to use it at the appropriate time in a race – the BHA should be educating, rather than spinning this wheel of continually changing rules.

    Looking beyond the big freeze

    Ireland hasn’t been hit as hard by the recent cold snap – the rain for us is never far away. Our tracks can take a fair bit of beating, so we’ve managed to keep on racing.

    We’re looking forward to Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham this weekend, where a plethora of very good clashes will be coming together, before all eyes turn to the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, which always gives a good indication of where horses will be heading Festival-wise at the end of the season.

    It’s certainly going to be unexpectedly busy!

    ● What are your thoughts on whip use in the sport? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county for the chance to have your views published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 26 January

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