Message to racing industry: “We all have a shared responsibility for the welfare of racehorses”

Some of the thousands of former racehorses in new careers with their owners in Britain.
Some of the thousands of former racehorses in new careers with their owners in Britain.

The care of thoroughbreds after their racing career has ended was highlighted to the global racing industry this week.

Owner responsibility and humane treatment, as well as retirement programs, took center stage at the two-day International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) in Washington, D.C., on May 17 and 18.

Di Arbuthnot. © Max Krupka

It was the organisation’s first such conference, and it coincided with the Pan American Conference, an international conference on thoroughbred racing hosted by The Jockey Club and the Latin American Racing Channel.

IFAR chairman and Retraining of Racehorses chief executive Di Arbuthnot said the forum featured presentations from a unique international gathering of aftercare participants from some of the sport’s top organizations in thoroughbred aftercare.

“Having our conference coincide with the Pan American Conference enabled us to share our views on aftercare best practices with a truly global audience, which is part of our mission.”

In her presentation to the entire Pan Am Conference on Thursday, Arbuthnot discussed IFAR’s vision for aftercare in the global Thoroughbred industry and reminded attendees how important aftercare is to all aspects of the industry.

“We all have a shared responsibility for the welfare of racehorses, which extends beyond the track. Across the entire animal welfare debate, the spotlight is on an animal’s quality of life and the emerging concept of a life worth living,” Arbuthnot said.

“The welfare of racehorses throughout their lifetime is one of the single greatest issues facing the racing industry. A key function of IFAR is to provide help and support by sharing expertise and good practice on a global basis whilst recognizing cultural differences,” she said.

Michael Blowen
Michael Blowen. © Max Krupka

“It is the entire racing industry’s responsibility for the welfare of the Thoroughbred racehorse. Racing needs to lead the way. There will be no racing if we fail on welfare and aftercare. We owe it to the horse to have a life after racing.”

Thursday’s keynote address was delivered by Michael Blowen, a former film critic for the Boston Globe and founder and president of the Thoroughbred retirement facility Old Friends. He also made a presentation at the Pan Am Conference.

“Horses have value and I consider retirement a legitimate career. This is their third career. These horses are priceless. Racing is based on competition on every level: racing, breeding, sales and others. When these horses come to our farm, that competition is over. They tell us how they want to be treated,” he said.

“I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to have the thrill of a lifetime every day.”

The IFAR conference was hosted by The Jockey Club and supported by Godolphin and was open to all racing jurisdictions, aftercare organizations and other interested parties. IFAR is an independent forum that recognizes geographical and industry differences among racing countries and is designed to enhance Thoroughbred aftercare worldwide.

A video and presentation of the conference is to be made available on the IFAR website.

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