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    Ensuring Horse Welfare and Safety takes precedence in British racing
Ensuring Horse Welfare and Safety takes precedence in British racing
Horses in the stable. Source: Midjourney

Ensuring Horse Welfare and Safety takes precedence in British racing

British Racing is renowned for its unwavering dedication to the welfare and well-being of Thoroughbred horses in England, Scotland, and Wales. It encompasses a sprawling and passionate community of over 6,000 individuals who pour their hearts and souls into caring for the 20,000+ horses that participate in racing each year. These individuals, including trainers, jockeys, grooms, and stable staff, form the backbone of the industry and work tirelessly to ensure that the horses receive exceptional care throughout their racing careers.

Recognising the critical importance of horse health and welfare, British Racing has made substantial investments in veterinary research and education. Over the past two decades, the industry has contributed over £47 million to support research initiatives aimed at advancing equine health and welfare. This significant financial commitment underscores the industry's determination to continually improve the well-being of horses not only within racing but also across the broader equine community. The impact of these investments extends beyond Thoroughbreds, benefiting horses of all breeds in Britain. By supporting research and education, British Racing plays a pivotal role in advancing veterinary knowledge, developing innovative treatments, and enhancing overall horse welfare standards across the country.

Horse at veterinary clinic. Source: Midjourney
Horse at veterinary clinic. Source: Midjourney

A career in racing offers Thoroughbreds a multitude of advantages that extend far beyond their time on the racetrack. Thoroughbred horses possess remarkable athleticism, exceptional health status, and a strong work ethic, making them well-suited for various equestrian disciplines after their racing careers. Many retired racehorses successfully transition into other activities such as showjumping, dressage, eventing, and pleasure riding. The versatility and adaptability of Thoroughbreds contribute to their continued well-being and success in second careers.

While any sport carries inherent risks, British Racing places paramount importance on managing and mitigating those risks. The industry has implemented strict welfare rules and regulations to safeguard the health and welfare of horses. These rules cover various aspects, including training practices, medication protocols, racecourse facilities, and veterinary care. British Racing continuously reviews and updates these rules to ensure they remain in line with the latest scientific knowledge and best practices.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the governing body of British Racing, plays a pivotal role in setting and enforcing these welfare standards. The BHA collaborates closely with respected animal welfare organizations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and World Horse Welfare to ensure that the highest standards of equine welfare are maintained. Mandatory microchipping and registration of foals within 30 days of birth are implemented. This collaborative approach ensures that the welfare of horses remains at the forefront of the industry's agenda. British Racing's Welfare Strategy, titled "A Life Well Lived," is overseen by the independently chaired Horse Welfare Board. It outlines a five-year plan with 26 projects aimed at enhancing racehorse welfare, safety, and public trust. Funding from the Racing Foundation and the Horserace Betting Levy Board supports these initiatives.

On race days, the health of horses takes centre stage. BHA officials, including veterinary officers, are present at every race meeting to oversee equine well-being and health conditions. They conduct pre-race examinations and post-race checks to ensure that the horses are fit to compete and have safely completed their races. In addition to their presence at the racecourse, BHA officials also conduct inspections and audits of training yards and stables to ensure compliance with welfare regulations. 21 projects are now live with £5.5 million of funding secured from the Racing Foundation in 2022, and ongoing financial support from the Horserace Betting Levy Board. It is the responsibility of the BHA and everyone involved in the sport to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise risk to horses and to ensure that no injury or fatality occurs which could reasonably have been prevented.

To further enhance racehorse weal, the Horse Welfare Board of British Racing has developed a comprehensive five-year strategic plan. This plan focuses on four key outcomes: quality of life, lifetime responsibility, safety, and public trust. It sets out a range of initiatives and projects aimed at improving all aspects of racehorse well-being, from birth to retirement. The strategic plan emphasises the industry's commitment to providing the highest standards of care and ensuring that racehorses lead happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Safety is another crucial aspect of British Racing. The industry is committed to ensuring the safety of horses, jockeys, and all participants. Ongoing research initiatives are dedicated to identifying and implementing measures to minimise risks and prevent injuries. Collaborations with organisations like the Thoroughbred Health Network and the EquiBioSafe app contribute to the development and implementation of best practices related to horse health, biosecurity, and disease prevention.

Aftercare is a fundamental pillar of British Racing's commitment to the quality of equine life. The industry places great importance on the well-being and rehoming of retired racehorses. From the moment a horse enters the racing industry, it is registered, microchipped, and tracked throughout its career. This traceability ensures that horses are accounted for, and appropriate aftercare can be provided once their racing days are over. The Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) charity, supported by British Racing, plays a vital role in finding new homes and alternative careers for retired racehorses. The funding for aftercare initiatives is sourced from various channels, including contributions from owners, trainers, and racecourses.£1.4 million in funding per year is invested in aftercare and associated projects from racing and related funding sources. A further £2.5 million Racehorse Relief Fund was set up during COVID-19 in case owners could not fund the care of horses. No payments have been required. The BHA partners with many organisations as part of continued commitment to fund veterinary research which will benefit the health and well-being of all horses, but particularly those who race. Mainly, this has been through the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), which has supported nearly 500 separate research projects since its foundation in 1963. Since the year 2000 around £35m has been invested by the sport in veterinary science, with veterinary funding distributed to a wide variety of research areas.

Horse racing in Britain. Source: Midjourney
Horse racing in Britain. Source: Midjourney

In its pursuit of continuous improvement, British Racing remains committed to minimising risks and elevating welfare standards. The industry actively invests in research and development projects to enhance equine welfare. It collaborates with international organisations, shares knowledge and best practices, and participates in global forums to drive progress in horse welfare.

Moreover, British Racing acknowledges the difficult decisions that sometimes need to be made in the best interest of horse welfare. The industry is proactive in guiding humane euthanasia practices, ensuring that the well-being of the horse remains the top priority in such circumstances.

In summary, British Racing's commitment to Thoroughbred welfare is unwavering. The industry continually strives to improve equine health and well-being through substantial investments in research and education. It places strict welfare regulations at the core of its operations, collaborates with renowned animal welfare organisations, and prioritises the safety and welfare of horses on race days. Furthermore, British Racing actively supports the aftercare and rehoming of retired racehorses, ensuring they have fulfilling lives beyond their racing careers. By embracing innovation, collaboration, and a deep-rooted sense of responsibility, British Racing sets an exemplary standard for the global racing community in safeguarding the welfare of Thoroughbred horses.

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