DEVELOPMENT OF A PROTOTYPE FOR REFEREES TO MONITOR WHIP USE IN HORSE RACING
Paper in proceedings, 2017
There is no standard surveillance system for modern flat horse racing in Sweden, so the surveillance camera placement and image quality varies between tracks. Reported whip misuse and unauthorised whipping often occur outside of the camera’s view and are therefore unrecorded. Thorough investigation of the current monitoring system used in Sweden revealed concerns about whether the stewards have enough time to estimate the number of whip strikes per horse, even when camera quality is sufficient, and has led to the development of an enhanced whip system. The system prototype offers a technical solution for the supervision of whip use in modern horse racing, and it would be useful in countries where there are regulations limiting the number of strikes. Current specifications allow the system to record the attributes and number of strikes and to relay the data contemporaneously to the stewards. The system does not interfere with the operation of the camera monitoring system. Since the number of strikes is reported with total accuracy, stewards are afforded more time to focus on matters of interference and actions that are important to the final result list. The prototype is a whip with a custom-made force sensor placed on both sides of the cushion pad. The sensors measure an area 24mm wide by 275mm long and cover the entire padded part of the approved race whip. The sensor is constructed of polyester that is 0.203mm thick. The force sensor is connected to a microcontroller mounted in the handle of the whip. The microcontroller processes the sensor data and sends the information via radio waves up to 1.7km in outdoor conditions to a second microcontroller located in the steward’s office. The whip strike sensor prototype is able to distinguish between a wave of the arm that leads to no impact and a strike. The software allows the force of each strike impact to be recorded. The intention is to embed the whip strike sensor within the body of whips used in a range of equestrian disciplines in which whip use is permitted. The possibility to register the properties of whip strikes will help to safeguard the welfare of horses used in these disciplines and provide information to the equestrian community that could change the way whips are used in training and racing.
Lay person message: The whipping of horses in racing leads to concerns about animal welfare globally. A whip strike sensor prototype has been developed that will facilitate detailed exploration of the effect whips have on horses and allow stewards to accurately assess the number of strikes made and forces used. It is intended to integrate strike sensors into whips used in disciplines where whipping is allowed; this will help to safeguard the welfare of horses used in these disciplines.