Rules on riding crop, continuing education and bisphosphonates progress in West Virginia

Posted: Dec. 16, 2020

Updates to the West Virginia Thoroughbred Rules of Racing continue to move through the approval process and will be voted on by the state legislature during the 2021 session that convenes Feb. 10, 2021. The proposed rules and rule updates stem from action taken by the Mid-Atlantic consortium of regulators, horsemen, racetracks and others in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities.

The rules, which were discussed during the Dec. 15 meeting of the West Virginia Racing Commission, govern use of the riding crop, implementation of a continuing education program for trainers, and a prohibition on use of bisphosphonates. Unlike other states in the region, proposed rules in West Virginia take roughly a year to make it through the legislative process.

A Dec. 9 letter from the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee to WVRC Executive Director Joe Moore and the Office of Secretary of State said it recommends the state legislature promulgate the rules as modified by the WVRC.

Riding crop

The riding crop rule states that all riders who elect to use a crop during a race may, without limitation, show or wave the riding crop without touching the horse; use the crop in an underhand position without the wrist rising above the shoulder; prior to the final eighth of a mile of a race on the hind quarters or shoulder; or with both hands on the reins to tap the horse on the shoulder; and use the crop as necessary to control the horse for the safety of the horse and rider.

A rider who elects to use the riding crop may not use the crop more than six times during a race; use the crop more than two times without allowing the horse to respond by pausing the use of the crop before resuming again, pushing the on the horse with a rein in each hand with the crop in the up or down position, showing the horse the crop without making contact, or moving the crop from one hand to the other.

In addition, a rider may not use the crop before or after the finish of a race; on the head, flanks or other part of the horse than the shoulder or hind quarters; on a horse that is clearly out of contention or has obtained its maximum placing; on a horse that is showing no response; in an excessive or brutal manner; to the extent of causing injury to the horse; from an arm position with the whip above the helmet; or willfully strike another rider or horse with the crop.

A jockey who violates the provisions of the crop rule may be subject to discipline from the stewards or WVRC. The stewards and/or the WVRC shall consider aggravating and mitigating factors when determining the appropriate penalty for a violation. All jockeys will be provided with a copy of the revised crop rule in English or Spanish and will be required to sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understand the rule.

Moore noted that the proposed crop rule was modified from an earlier version to use the final eighth of a mile instead of the final quarter-mile of race at the request of horsemen.

Continuing Education

Regarding continuing education, the proposed rule states that beginning on Jan. 1, 2022, in order to maintain a current permit, trainers and assistant trainers must complete a minimum of four hours of CE per calendar year and shall certify compliance as a condition of permit issuance. The qualifying CE courses, which may include live and online presentations, will be approved by the WVRC. A minimum of two of the four hours of CE required per calendar year must pertain to equine health, safety and welfare topics.

A trainer of assistant trainer completing an approved CE course or program in another racing jurisdiction that requires the completion of CE as a condition of licensure may claim reciprocal CE credit in West Virginia. Satisfaction of the CE requirement may be subject to audit by the WVRC or its designee; such audits many be conducted randomly or for cause. If an audit reveals that CE requirements haven’t been met during any calendar year, a trainer or assistant trainer may be subject to discipline.

A trainer or assistant trainer shall retain for a minimum period of four years appropriate documentation that indicates participating in a course or program, including the name, title, date and location of the course or program and the number of CE hours earned; that a course or program was accredited by the relevant state regulatory authority or its designee; and proof of compliance—a certificate of completion when available—for each credit hour earned.

Trainers and assistant trainers shall attest on their permit applications that annual CE credits have been met—a permit shall not be issued if such an attestation isn’t provided. The WVRC or stewards may waive CE requirements for just cause.


The bisphosphonates rule has been adopted throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere in the United States. It classifies administration of bisphosphonates as a prohibited practice and states that horses 4 years of age or older may only be administered if they are approved by the Federal Drug Administration and only for diagnosed cases of navicular disease.

If a horse older than 4 years of age is administered bisphosphonates, the WVRC must be notified within 24 hours of the administration and the horse shall be placed on the veterinarian’s list for no less than six months after the last administration. Prior to returning to racing, the horse must work for a WVRC veterinarian.

If any bisphosphonate is detected in an out-of-competition or post-race sample and the WVRC hasn’t received timely notification of an administration, the detection shall be treated as an illicit substance. The horse shall be placed on the veterinarian’s list for no less than six months and be required to work for a WVRC veterinarian.