Racehorse Rigging

Electrical devices used in brutal treatment of racehorses

In the competitive world of horse racing, desire to win sometimes yields horrific measures. Participants resort to the use of electrical apparatus—specifically battery-powered shocking mechanisms called “jiggers”—in an effort to compel a horse’s physical ability.

In the most recent instance, Australian trainer Jerrod McLean and his owner were charged with possession of one of these devices in February. Last week, it was announced that McLean’s case has been adjourned for a directions hearing on September 3, IGSRV reported June 18. It is the second time McLean’s hearing has been pushed back, and it remains to be seen whether he will be found guilty. IGSRV (International Group of Specialist Racing Veterinarians) is an association committed to the welfare of racing horses.

The method is generally used during training in association with simulated blinkers, to force muscle memory upon the horses during actual races when the blinkers signal its start. In the United States, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and his (also Hall of Fame) trainer D. Wayne Lukas were caught using similar devices in 2014.

The method is used worldwide, part of a sinister underworld that involves the owners, trainers and jockeys together. In this video from PETA, U.S. jockeys can be seen laughing as they use electro-shock devices as a stimulating technique. Editor’s note: this video may be disturbing to some. View at your own discretion.

McLean has been allowed to continue to train pending the RAD Board hearing his charges, but Racing Victoria rejected his application to take over trainer Darren Weir’s Warrnambool stables. The two trainers were arrested and then released without charge by police after officers and stewards raided Weir’s stables at Ballarat and Warrnambool in January.

Reinforcing the widespread use of the method by the sport’s top figures is the fact that Weir is a Melbourne Cup-winning trainer. He did not contest the charges and was initially banned for four years, as The Conversation reported February 5. Racing Victoria stewards then charged McLean with being in possession of an electric device at a Yangery property on, or about, January 30.jigger

A 2015 New York Times report detailed rampant use of the practice, even in the U.S., where past violations have yet to be penalized. “Since 1974 there have been nearly 300 instances in which racing commissions have investigated and taken action against jockeys, trainers, grooms or escort riders for infractions involving the devices, according to documents obtained from the Association of Racing Commissioners International,” the Times reported.

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