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Don't Flog a Live Horse

Alan Smith

I have to declare a lack of interest here.

The last time I placed a bet on a horse race was 1977 when I picked Red Rum to win the Grand National, which it did for a record 3rd time. I have no idea about racing and have no intention of finding a passion for it. But I was intrigued by the row between the Jockey Club, the British Horseracing Authority and the World Horse Welfare group that seems to have settled to a simmer last week when new rules were introduced that allowed all sides to walk away with their heads held high.

A number of jockeys have found themselves having to hand back winnings from races and suffering riding bans for what the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) deem to be excessive use of the whip. The World Horse Welfare charity felt that use of the whip should be completely banned and that the BHA had not gone far enough. The jockeys felt that the whip (a new version of which has just been introduced, the so called air whip, which makes more noise and less impact) is an essential tool for controlling and steering a couple of tons of muscle travelling at speeds in excess of 40 mph.

Temperatures have been steadily rising and a threatened strike by jockeys was on the cards at the meeting planned for last Monday, if some form of agreement could not be reached. It did not look good.

Each side had both vested and visible interest in getting their way.

The eventual deal agreed (even though with some degree of reluctance) appears to give all sides the opportunity to save face.

Saving face in negotiation

New rules state that the use of the whip should be limited to 7 times on the flat a maximum of 5 times in the last furlong of the race, that excessive use of the whip on a number of occasions will result in punitive measures for the riders involved, and that time to both introduce the measures and review the use of the whip at all will be agreed. In short, all sides can claim to have had influence in the end agreement.

Face saving whilst resolving conflict allows all sides to maintain a good self-image. Often when we are involved in a negotiation we continue the conflict, just to avoid the embarrassment of looking bad by being seen to give in.

To avoid this problem, it is also important to allow one's opponents to make concessions gracefully, without having to admit that they made a mistake or backed down. Often a simple change in wording, or an exchange of concessions will help negotiators maintain a positive image, even when they are actually giving in. Also ensure that there is no gloating or bragging when one has won a victory. Gloating makes the other side look bad and feel bad, which might encourage them to withdraw their cooperation.

And that's a tip we can all benefit from.

Alan Smith

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