Global thoroughbred industry making progress in racehorse aftercare

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Horses racing in California. Photo: Noah Salzman CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
© Noah Salzman CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Tremendous strides” have been made by the global Thoroughbred industry to prioritize aftercare and establish programs to protect racehorses throughout their lives, last week’s International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) was told.

Held as part of the Asian Racing Conference (ARC) in Cape Town, South Africa, the forum featured presentations from representatives of four racing jurisdictions on their advancements in aftercare practices as well as discussions pertaining to the importance of developing effective aftercare programs.

IFAR chair Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) chief executive Di Arbuthnot kicked off the conference with an introduction of IFAR’s mission and progress since inception.

Di Arbuthnot, IFAR chair and Retraining of Racehorses chief executive. (File image)

“Today’s presentations demonstrated the tremendous strides made by the global Thoroughbred industry to prioritize aftercare and establish programs to protect racehorses throughout their entire lives,” she said. “We are thankful to the organizers of the Asian Racing Conference for recognizing the importance of aftercare and enabling IFAR to share our message with conference attendees.”

Dr Eliot Forbes, an independent advisor to IFAR and the chief executive officer of AniMark Ltd, presented on the six strategies that comprise IFAR’s Aftercare Toolkit and the importance of an aftercare plan in the current climate of animal rights activism.

“We don’t need to bend to the will of activists, but we do need to make sure that we match the reasonable expectations of ordinary people,” Forbes said.

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, offered his insights on the evolving welfare consciousness and proper welfare practices during the horse’s entire lifecycle, including the importance of euthanasia in certain situations. He discussed the social license of horse racing and the need for the racing industry to build trust with the public regarding the ethical treatment of horses who compete in racing.

“We have been doing some things for decades, but just because we have been doing them for decades doesn’t make them right,” Owers said. “If we don’t have a social license, we won’t be able to do business.”

Simon Cooper, the operations director for Weatherbys, detailed the importance of traceability at all stages of a racehorse’s life and how Weatherbys’ e-passport will help improve traceability from conception to death.

Dr Jinkap Kim, chief manager of the Veterinary Regulation & Welfare team at the Korea Racing Authority’s (KRA) Veterinary Department, recounted the fallout from videos released by animal activists that documented former racehorses being treated cruelly at slaughterhouses. In an effort to enhance equine welfare, the KRA has expanded its Equine Welfare Committee, revised equine welfare guidelines, introduced equine welfare knowledge as components of qualification and licensing exams, and established a task force for retired racehorses.

Arnold Hyde, racing control executive for The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa (NHA), and Hazel Kayiya, racing admin executive of the Stud Book Department for the NHA, presented on South Africa’s aftercare policies. While the jurisdiction faces challenges from factors such as economics and gaps in education and traceability, the NHA is making strides to address aftercare. For example, Hyde spoke on new rules written by the NHA to give owners responsibility for the welfare of racehorses throughout their entire lives, and Kayiya stated that the NHA is drafting rules to increase traceability through increased regulation of private auctions and sales.

Yoshimasa Takizawa, chief technical advisor of the Equestrian Affairs Division of the Japan Racing Association (JRA), talked about Japan’s progress in the aftercare arena. The JRA has launched a program that provides financial resources to farms that take care of retired racehorses and organizations that work to promote second careers for former racehorses. The Japanese program is modeled after the United Kingdom’s RoR and the United States’ Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Takizawa noted the JRA’s commitment to supporting the use of retired racehorses in a diverse range of careers.

Jennifer Hughes, the general manager for equine welfare for Racing Victoria, detailed Australia’s approach to aftercare, including categorizing former racehorses by their suitability to progress on to second careers and facilitating incentive-driven traceability programs to follow Thoroughbreds at all stages of their lives.

International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) is an independent forum that recognizes geographical and industry differences among racing countries and is designed to enhance Thoroughbred aftercare worldwide.

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