Racing leaders getting together on thoroughbred aftercare

D B Pin winning the Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong in January.
D B Pin winning the Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong in January. © HKJC

Racing jurisdictions from around the world are getting together in just under two weeks’ time to discuss the welfare and care of racehorses after their competitive career is over.

Described as “collaborative think-tanks”, the second International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) is being held on May 14 during the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul, South Korea, and on May 17, the conference is devoting an entire session of the conference to equine welfare.

The keynote address at IFAR will be delivered by Lyndon Barends, the chief executive of The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa, who will discuss approaches to aftercare in South Africa.

Thoroughbred aftercare has been a hot topic in recent years, and this week animal advocacy group PETA called for owners of racehorses starting in this year’s Kentucky Derby to donate $15,000 each to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), which finds homes for horses who are no longer used by the racing industry.

PETA’s request was inspired by audiobook company Audible, which donated $15,000 to the TAA in honor of Audible, a thoroughbred running in the Derby. In its letters to the owners, PETA points out that before 2012, when the TAA was founded, 10,000 Thoroughbreds were transported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico every year. Well-known horses — including 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand, who was slaughtered in Japan — have been killed for human consumption.

“US Thoroughbreds have a better chance now, but some are still being trucked to slaughterhouses when they stop winning or are too injured to run — so adequate funds are crucial,” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “If all the owners of the horses running in the 2018 Kentucky Derby pledged $15,000, it would make a world of difference to retired thoroughbreds who could still have years of life ahead.”

International initiatives

During the ARC’s Equine Welfare session, Frances Nelson QC, the chair of Racing Australia, will talk about Australia’s initiatives involving early foal registration and the emphasis on increasing the traceability of racehorses. James L. Gagliano, president of The Jockey Club, will delve into IFAR’s strategic goals and the significance of the Man O’ War Project, which aims to determine the effectiveness of equine therapy on helping military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Retraining of Racehorses chief executive Di Arbuthnot, chair of the IFAR steering group, said the goal of the conference was to share best practices on an international scale for retraining and rehoming thoroughbreds and on marketing their tremendous versatility.

Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery
Boyd Martin and OTTB Blackfoot Mystery. ©

“The Thoroughbred can excel in countless roles besides racing,” she said.

Representatives from prominent groups such as the Korea Racing Authority, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, the Japan Racing Association, Horseback UK, the Thoroughbred Charities of America, Racing Australia, the University of Adelaide, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club will provide their perspectives and insights on Thoroughbred aftercare and welfare.

“The care of Thoroughbreds at all stages of their lives is rightfully a prominent issue in racing industries around the world, and we are expecting the IFAR conference and Equine Welfare session to serve as collaborative think-tanks at this year’s ARC,” said Andrew Harding, secretary-general of the Asian Racing Federation. “I anticipate constructive dialogue that continues to promote and achieve effective approaches to handling aftercare and overall welfare in racing jurisdictions large and small.”

The inaugural IFAR conference took place in conjunction with the Pan American Conference in Washington, DC, in May 2017.

The Asian Racing Conference takes place in Seoul, South Korea, from May 13 to 18, with more than 500 delegates participating from more than 30 countries.


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