Columbus -- Harness racers could face sanctions for whipping tired horses or those not in contention during races, under new rules OK'd by the Ohio Racing Commission.

The updated administrative code language also would require drivers to give horses time to respond to previous whippings and refrain from using whip handles on their animals.

The rules were approved March 30 by the Ohio Racing Commission and will be reviewed by two other state boards, including the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, before taking effect. The process could take three or four months.

The rules focus on harness racing, which takes place at four tracks (including Northfield Park in Northfield Village) and more than 60 county fairs across the state.

There are already restrictions for whip use under state codes dealing with horse racing, but the new rules include more details and additional restrictions.

Whips still are not allowed to be bigger than 48 inches, with snappers up to 6 inches.

But the new rules include more specifics about how whips are used, including the distance whips can be raised and where they can be administered.

Also, "Drivers shall not use the whip on a tired horse, on a horse that is not visibly responding or when a horse is not in contention in a race... [or] without giving the horse time to respond to a previous application...."

And, "Excessive, indiscriminate, visibly injurious or abusive use of the whip is prohibited."

Those breaking the new rules could face loss of placement in races, disqualification or suspension.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.