Horse welfare – racing’s five-year strategy
British horseracing’s Horse Welfare Board, which is independently chaired, has published its five-year strategic plan for the welfare of horses bred for racing.
The strategy focuses on the ambition that every horse bred to race should lead – and be seen to lead – “a life well-lived”. The strategy includes traceability for horses bred for the sport, a strong focus on safety and wellbeing, a more confident and proactive approach to communications and the industry’s biggest ever data project.
Twenty recommendations and 26 specific projects were put before British racing’s Members Committee:
A: Standards and benchmarking
1. Welfare benchmarking:
The Horse Welfare Board recommends the continued development of a system for benchmarking welfare of Thoroughbreds, working with other racing jurisdictions, equine sports and equine sectors as far as possible.
This should be a scientifically grounded but practical checklist, which has the potential to be used as evidence of welfare standards in racing.
To be led by the BHA as an industry-wide project, with sponsorship from the HWB to ensure this work is developed collaboratively both across and outside the industry.
2. Euthanasia code of practice:
We require the development and implementation of a single euthanasia code covering the whole industry, including breeding, pre-training, sales and aftercare, building on existing codes and including a clear decision tree to ensure euthanasia is used appropriately.
This code should be communicated to industry and external audiences, to encourage understanding of responsible, ethical euthanasia as an important element of the welfare toolkit.
To be led by the BHA and utilising appropriate expertise from e.g. the Veterinary and Ethics Committees.
3. Code of Ethics:
Racing to develop and communicate an ethical case for racing, including a Code of Ethics. Code of Ethics to be commissioned from the BHA’s (independent) Ethics Committee by the HWB and which can potentially be developed with other sports as a “Sport Horse Charter”.
4. Ground and going improvement and benchmarking:
Racing to undertake a project to develop performance quality criteria and measurement for ground and going, to cover first racing, then training surfaces, with an associated education and accreditation programme.
This project should also assess, with the help of predictive modelling, any safety or welfare issues linked to ground or going, in relation both to turf and artificial surfaces, and the preparation and irrigation of surfaces, making recommendations for action as appropriate.
This project to be led by a subgroup of the BHA’s cross-industry racecourse committee, with sponsorship and funding from the Horse Welfare Board.
5. Continued consideration of breeding methods:
British racing should continue to play a role internationally on the relative merits of different breeding methods, led by the TBA and BHA and helping the Horse Welfare Board to maintain its understanding of developments in this area.
B: Safety improvements
6. Obstacle improvement:
Continued, continuous improvement of obstacle design, visibility, layout and structure, beginning with the further development of safer hurdle design and obstacle visibility.
To be led by the Horse Welfare Board Chair, working with the group already convened, including representatives from racecourses, BHA and RSPCA, working with expertise from British Eventing.
C: Reviews of current policies and practices
7. The BHA should conduct a consultation on the whip in 2020, as follows:
With a view, regardless of other outcomes discussed in the consultation, to reviewing penalties for breaches of the whip rules as quickly as possible and ideally by the end of October 2020, noting that the need to increase penalties is a clear, minimum recommendation of the Horse Welfare Board, with particular consideration of increased penalties for:
o Whip action offences, e.g. use of the whip over shoulder height, where evidence suggests that greater deterrents are required o Whip modification offences, penalties for which are felt to be inadequate
o Repeat/multiple offences by the same jockey, increasing the progressive penalties applied for multiple offences
• Consultation on penalties should seek views and ideas on a range of sanctions, e.g. fines and/or suspensions for jockeys, and prize money sanctions.
• Welfare Board recognises that different views exist on the feasibility and desirability of sanctions involving disqualification of the horse but feels this question could usefully be considered and resolved through consultation. Should the BHA choose to exclude this from the consultation, it must set out clear reasons for doing so.
In that consultation, the BHA should also take the opportunity to gather views, and potentially to consider:
• Future banning/retention of the whip for encouragement, in order to foster a controlled, constructive and managed discussion
• Changing the rules to place further restrictions on use of the whip for encouragement (e.g. reduction in number of permitted strikes, or restricting use during particular stages of a race).
The Horse Welfare Board wishes to be clear that the only explicit recommendation for immediate action on the whip relates to the need for increased penalties and for the industry to take greater control of conversations relating to the use of the whip for encouragement, initially expressing views via an open, managed consultation process.
8. Stalls and starting review:
Racing to conduct a short review of stalls and starting, including: Assessment of risk of injury to horses from stalls starts and jumps (tape and flip) starts, to ensure risks are as low as possible. If risks are identified, causes to be ascertained and addressed.
Review to include consideration of stalls loading procedures and identification of any real or perceived welfare issues, with appropriate action to be taken as necessary.
This short review to be led by the BHA and RCA, but with a view to regular future reassessment, in line with new information and data, or utilising improvements made in overseas jurisdictions.
9. Lower place prize money review:
Racing to conduct a short analysis to assess any welfare or safety issues arising from lower place prize money and to provide reassurance, or to make changes to prize money allocation if required.
10. Improved accountability in non-regulated sectors:
The Horse Welfare Board recommends that the same standards of welfare, safety and traceability are applied in non-regulated parts of racing, as the lack of regulation may compromise the welfare of Thoroughbreds, as well as creating vulnerabilities that may affect the sustainability and reputation of the regulated sport.
This applies to the breeding, pre-training, sales, transportation and aftercare sectors.
At this stage, we have not formed a definite view on how this accountability is best achieved, e.g. by registration or accreditation schemes, codes of practice, or through more formal regulation.
The Horse Welfare Board will consider this alongside the BHA and relevant stakeholders, conducting or commissioning a review as required.
11. Welfare financing review:
The industry to conduct an analysis of racing’s funding model for welfare, with a particular focus on the aftercare sector to ensure appropriate sustainability of the rehoming sector, developing new funding models and subsidies as required, and on opportunities in relation to research and development.
This work will be scoped and commissioned appropriately by the Horse Welfare Board.
D: Data and risk analysis
12. Establishment of cross industry data unit and programme:
Recognising the importance of robust data, racing to establish a cross-industry data unit and programme, coordinated by the BHA, with the sponsorship of the Horse Welfare Board to ensure alignment and prioritisation of data projects, with a focus on the recommendations in the remainder of this section, as follows:
Racing should aim for the fullest possible traceability, during the period of this strategy (2020-2024), across the lifetime of all horses bred for racing, with the initial priorities being:
• 100% data completion and traceability of racehorses’ first step away from racing.
• Improved understanding of second and subsequent steps away from racing, via improved traceability and fuller engagement with commercial rehomers, to be led by RoR.
• Analysis and understanding of any gap between 30-day foal notification and entry into racing yards, with actions being developed to address any welfare issues that may emerge from this analysis, to be led by BHA and TBA.
• Addressing gaps and accessibility challenges in the data, working with e.g. Weatherbys and Defra.
• Devising solutions that remove barriers and provide incentives to ensure fullest possible traceability.
• Working with others where control is limited to minimise welfare risks, e.g.
o Working with other equine sports and sectors on collaborative approaches
o Working with sales houses to ensure a responsible approach to overseas sales and to restrict sales or exports where there is evidence of risk
o Providing education and support to rehomers, as per recommendation 16 below
14. Predictive risk modelling:
Continued development, improvement and implementation of the predictive risk modelling approach, beginning with the Jump Racing Risk Model, led by BHA and reporting into the industry data programme.
Further information and data, including that obtained via trainer and jockey engagement, and ground and going projects, to be added when available.
15. Medication data:
Racing to establish a project relating to the gathering and analysis of medication data and clinical records, to understand any areas of risk in relation to injuries and fatalities, to be led by the BHA, working with the NTF and BHA Veterinary Committee.
E: Training and education
16. Training and CPD:
The Horse Welfare Board recommends an improved and more aligned focus on training, education and CPD programmes across the industry, to ensure best practice, with a particular onus on:
• Breeder education to ensure responsible breeding practices and to ensure that standards required in regulated sectors are respected and applied in the breeding sector, to be led by the TBA but with support from the wider industry.
• Owner education to ensure responsible ownership, particularly in relation to owners’ responsibilities to horses following the end of their racing careers.
• Education and support for rehomers and potential rehomers, to be led by RoR but with support and promotion by the wider industry.
• CPD programmes for trainers, to be developed by the NTF and BHA and to form part of the licence renewal process.
F: Communication, engagement and reputation management
17. Promsotion of welfare and the horse:
Racing to develop and implement an approach and plan that puts the importance of the horse at the centre of its promotional activity, using a balance of strong storytelling, strong evidence and data and which makes the ethical case.
This to be led by a new senior communications role, which will work with the Horse Welfare Board, GBR, BHA and an industry communications group.
18. Issues management:
Racing to reconsider its issues management approach and associated messaging, to ensure this is effective in providing reassurance and building (and measuring) trust with key public and political audiences.
This to be led by a new senior communications role, in line with recommendation 17 above and working particularly with the BHA.
19. Industry engagement:
Racing to build the capacity of the sport to engage effectively on welfare, including support for industry engagement initiatives (e.g. open days), developing and broadening capacity to engage with the public and politicians, keeping the sport informed of important welfare developments, and equipping them with communications content, materials and messaging led in line with, and with content drawn from, recommendations 17 and 18 above.
20. External stakeholder engagement:
Racing to step up its engagement and collaboration with other equine sports and sectors, working together on key initiatives, as well as deepening its engagement and dialogue with trusted welfare organisations and charities, with a view to improving equine welfare and promoting trust.
This plan to be facilitated by the senior communications lead, working with the BHA and the Horse Welfare Board.
The Board recognised that the sport is already focused on horse welfare and that numerous welfare strategies exist across the sport.
Trainers, racecourses, jockeys, staff and more all play their part alongside a regulatory environment based on robust inspection, licensing and training.
Together, this has made racing safer for horses and jockeys and all contributes to the high quality of life enjoyed by thoroughbred horses.
However, before today the sport did not have a single, overarching welfare strategy that coordinates the contributions made by all parts of the industry, with an ambitious vision for every horse bred to race. As such, it has the full support of the BHA and its members, representing competitors and racecourses.
Four key outcomes
The strategy focuses on four key outcomes:
- Best possible QUALITY OF LIFE, relating to the encouragement and furthering of best practice in all aspects of health, care, husbandry and disease control.
- Collective LIFETIME RESPONSIBILITY, incorporating, for example, traceability across the lifetimes of horses bred for racing, and initiatives fostering greater understanding, encouragement and effective enforcement of responsibility
- Best possible SAFETY, the understanding and analysis of multiple risk factors and the continuing reduction of reasonably avoidable injuries and fatalities.
- Growth and maintenance of public TRUST
The strategy also identifies the value of data in informing veterinary care and the prevention of injury and illness. It articulates the ethical case for horses’ participation in sport and leisure and the need for better use of high-impact communications to tell racing’s story.
It also commits to develop a Code of Ethics to provide a transparent framework for decision-making around all aspects of a racehorse’s care and wellbeing.
The Horse Welfare Board includes representatives from the sport’s tripartite structure of the BHA, racecourses and horsemen.
Its independent chair, Barry Johnson, is a former Chairman of World Horse Welfare and President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Former Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, is the other independent member. The development of the strategy was supported by funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB).
The Board also stressed that the strategy was just the beginning of a journey and it would evolve and develop over its five-year lifespan.
The Horse Welfare Board
The British Horseracing Association established the independently-chaired Horse Welfare Board to produce a strategy that unites the whole industry and drives continuous
Dr J Barry Johnson DL.MRCVS
Independent member, Chair
Barry Johnson was the founder and senior partner of one of the largest equine practices in the NW, Oakhill Veterinary Practice. He was elected to the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons serving for 28 years, becoming its President in 1993
Tracey was elected to represent the constituency of Chatham & Aylesford in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015, and was asked to serve as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. In the 2017 General Election, Tracey again was re-elected.
Programme Director, British Horseracing Authority
Alison joined the BHA in 2018 as Head of Stakeholder Engagement. She is also the Programme Director for the Horse Welfare Board. Alison has recently been elected as a Trustee of the Universities Federation on Animal Welfare.
BHA Director of Equine Health & Welfare
David Sykes joined the BHA in March 2017 as Director of Equine Health and Welfare and is responsible for developing an enhanced welfare strategy which encapsulates a thoroughbred’s full lifespan, from birth until well after the end of its racing career.
Racecourse representative, Racecourse Association
Caroline is the Racecourse Services Director of The Racecourse Association Ltd, the trade association for racecourses in Great Britain.
She is responsible for providing advice, support and training to racecourses in addition to representing them at industry forums and with Government and Local Authorities.
Simon Knapp, Racecourse representative
Racecourse Association Veterinary Adviser
Simon is a veterinary surgeon heading up a 100% equine practice in the Home Counties. He is Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Kempton Park, Sandown Park and Epsom Downs racecourses, as well as a member of the veterinary team at Ascot Racecourse.
Horsemen representative, Racehorse Owners Association
Charlie Liverton has been the CEO of the Racehorse Owners Association since 2016, having previously spent seven years at Neptune Investment Management.
Charlie was also pupil assistant trainer to Major Dick Hern and Richard Hannon, as well as working for one of the leading vets in Lambourn, Mike O’Gorman, and in the bloodstock department of Tattersalls.
Racehorse trainer, vet and Chair of British Horseracing’s Ethics Committee
James Given graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1990 and, after a spell working at the College and then in practice, joined Mark Johnston as his Vet and Assistant.
He has held a Trainer’s Licence since 1998 and has been a Trustee of the British Racing School for 15 years, on the committee of Market Rasen Racecourse, a founder member of the BHA’s Ethics Committee, which he now chairs, and joined the Horse Welfare Board at its inception.
You can find the full report here http://media.britishhorseracing.com/bha/Welfare/HWB/WELFARE_STRATEGY.pdf