Horse Welfare and Safety
On The Track
Modern Horse Racing is a sport on the mend, at least when it comes to correcting past mistakes of dealing with the animal contenders. Horse racing does have a dark past. A past of pumping horses full of anabolic steroids and anti-inflammatory medication, to make them run harder and without feeling the warning signs of pain. For a while it seemed like horse racing was doomed to become the sport of doped, genetically enhanced mutants. Luckily for all, veterinary associations, organised groups of horsemen and race horse trainers stepped in and are now in the process of returning the original values of horse racing.
Today horses are monitored by track veterinarians before and after the race, they are probed for maltreatment - including the ingestion of illegal supplements -, and their general well-being and good form is ensured. More and more rules and regulation which favour the race horses are emerging, from rules on how a jockey is allowed to use his riding crop, to the medications a horse is allowed to consume before the race.
With a hot debate around the practice of fitting a horse with blinkers, ear plugs or the trimming of a horse's whiskers, there are surely changes on the way when it comes to the track. However, already you can rest assured that the well-being of active race horses is a topic of great importance to a number of dedicated equine medicine services, who are working tirelessly to make sure that the racers are having a good time.
Retired Race Horses
Once a race horse has passed its glory days it faces an uncertain future. With its place in the training stables being cleared out for a potential successor it can sometimes be a difficult task to find a new environment for the retired racer. A horse can leave the sport for a number of reasons including injury, old age, or merely not cutting it with the competition on the track. Luckily there are organisations devoted to creating a new life away from the race course for these horses.
The main scheme in place to find new lives for retired race horses is Retraining Of Racehorses (ROR), which is the official national charity for equine sports. Launched in 2000 by the British Horseracing Authority, this organisation is not only responsible for resting, retraining and placing horses looking for a new trade, but also to care for the rare cases of neglect and maltreatment of animals on the racing circuit. It includes a number of charitable organisations, such as the HEROS charity (Homing Ex-Racehorses Organisation Scheme) dedicated to finding new careers and homes for track-leavers. Established in the 1990s, this charity has placed horses to embark on new journeys as eventing horses, dressage performers, polo players, show jumpers, hacks, companions and many more. The ROR also works closely with the Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre, the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, and Greatwood - a home for retired race horses involved in equine therapy for special needs children.
Considering all these great programs in place to help injured, incapable or simply old horses back on their feet, you can watch the races without a trace of guilt. Because we can safely say: The days of shooting a horse when it can race no more are well and truly over.