The seven horse deaths during this week’s four-day Cheltenham Festival in Britain are deeply concerning, the RSPCA says.
The British charity said in a statement that it would look in depth at how each equine death occurred in the hope of preventing further fatalities. It said its racing consultant, David Muir, would provide a “pragmatic review”.
“The RSPCA will be meeting with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) shortly to review the races; to discuss why these deaths occurred; and to explore welfare issues surrounding the event,” the statement said.
“The RSPCA works closely with the BHA, calling for improvements to hurdle design and placement, alongside other areas of progress.”
The heavy toll has cast a shadow over the hugely popular jumps meeting.
The loss of seven horses at the festival is said to be the worst loss in at least 10 years.
The animal advocacy group Animal Aid was quick to condemn the losses, saying 53 horses had died at the Cheltenham Festival since the year 2000.
Its racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said: “The horses, who are supposedly cherished by the world of racing, are merely disposable commodities, as we have seen this week.”
Three horses were lost on the first day of racing. The Govaness and Rezorbi died as a result of injuries suffered over jumps, while Pont Alexandre broke down and was euthanised.
The second day of racing claimed Irish racehorse No More Heroes. The gelding broke down near the finish of a race in which he finished fourth. He was taken to a Cheltenham veterinary hospital, but was euthanized that night because of the severity of his tendon injury.
The third day of racing saw the loss of Niceonefrankie, who fell heavily at the fourth last fence of a handicap chase.
Two horses died on the final day. The Long Dog suffered a life-ending leg injury between obstacles in a three-mile race. Montdragon collapsed and died in a race over two and a half miles.
The British Horseracing Authority’s chief veterinary officer, Jenny Hall, said it was notable that four of the fatal injuries were not related to a fall over a hurdle or fence.
“Horses are at risk of serious injury throughout their lives, regardless of the type of equestrian activity they participate in,” she said.
“We will work with Cheltenham to assess all of the incidents that took place this week. We have a good relationship with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, and, as always, we will work with them to ensure we continue we do all we can to make racing as safe as possible.”