Equestrian sport ‘in this together’ when it comes to horse welfare

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  • Obstacle safety and ground conditions are the focus of “up” projects, as the racing and horse riding worlds are reminded that when it comes to horse welfare, “we are all in this together.”

    The Horse Welfare Board (HWB) of the racing industry established 26 projects at its launch in February 2020 (news, February 27, 2020). His equine safety advisor, Mike Etherington-Smith, and aftercare leader, Francesca Compostella, shared the progress he’s making, and the current projects he’s focusing on, at the Horse Racing Industry Conference in Newbury. (June 30th).

    The safety of the obstacles (hurdles and fences), the conditions of the terrain and the course, as well as a review of stalls and exits, are among the three projects that are underway.
    “We are looking at the improvement and development of obstacles and what we can do in terms of profiles, materials, design and sighting. We have some ideas about the obstacles and moving them forward,” said Mike. “It’s about making it easy for the horses to do what we ask them to do.

    “Whether it’s eventing, jumping, racing or whatever, we all have a responsibility to give our best with the horses. For me, equine safety is the number one priority. No horse, no sport. It’s as simple as that.”

    Mike, a five-star event course designer and founding member of the FEI’s full event risk management steering group, added that many beginnings of that area of ​​his career “spin directly into racing”.

    “We all got into this because we want to make a difference. It’s not necessarily because we’re passionate about racing, which of course we are, it’s really about trying to make a difference and move things forward,” he said.

    “Our belief is that we are all in this together. It goes beyond racing as well. The entire equestrian industry is in this together.”

    He added that the board has been working with the British Horseracing Authority, the National Federation of Trainers, the Professional Jockeys’ Association and the Racecourse Association, because equine safety is “interlinked and interdependent” with many areas.

    “Working together, across the equestrian industry, is really important to me,” he said, adding that collective communication is key. “Joe Public sees us all as horse people. Racing is the biggest industry of all, but to a lot of people on the street, a horse is a horse.”

    He added: “So often we look outside of sport, when we really need to look at ourselves, and the greatest resistance to change comes from within: ‘It’s been done this way since God was a child, so let’s move on.’ with that’.

    “Often we need to look at ourselves first and I’m a big believer in challenging the status quo.”

    Mike said that rolling out multiple initiatives back to back is crucial for change to happen.

    “If we just take them out one at a time, we’ll be here forever. Five or ten years from now we will wonder where that time has gone,” she said.

    “Everyone on the welfare board agrees with this. It’s a case of ‘OK, how are we going to do this, how are we going to make a difference in a short period of time?’ Because we don’t have the luxury of time in any equestrian sport. So much is coming our way, it’s already here – the excitement in mainland Europe at full events is coming here.”

    Dr. Compostella spoke of the progress being made in equine data and traceability.

    “Traceability underpins everything that ensures the safety of a horse throughout its life and collective responsibility for life. We know very well where the horses are during the races, but we have gaps, and we need to be honest about that, before and after their races,” he said.

    “To help with that, HWB, with the Thoroughbred Breeders Association, is looking at the crop of foals between 2010, 2015 and 2018 to try to understand the different pathways of horses from birth to racing.”

    He added that HWB is working with Defra in the consultation phase to try to move digital ID forward, and with the Racehorse Owners Association on a campaign of responsible ownership and updating equine identification throughout the life of a horse. horse.

    Progress is also being made in traceability as horses leave racing, with the “previous safety net” being expanded to include horses when they first leave racing.

    “That in itself led to a national call, where we reached out and engaged with every aftercare service provider in the UK and that brought to life a submission process, which by its nature has created the backbone of an accreditation system,” he said.

    “In all of that, a partnership with the University of Surrey has promised a welfare tool, which is also being used in other areas, that will show different areas of a horse’s welfare throughout its stages of relocation and once it has been relocated. relocates with owners.

    “There is a huge focus on creating and maintaining those connections that we have established and building on them to create a stronger bond and a community that will provide education, which we believe is the key to the sustainability of the aftercare sector.”

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