Racehorse welfare from birth is a top priority

TBA supports new BHA notification protocol

One aspect of breeding and racing that has become increasingly important throughout the world in recent years – and rightly so – is the care and attention given to the welfare of the thoroughbred. Everyone involved, whether in a large commercial organisation or as a small private operator, has to be aware of today’s climate of public opinion.

The fact is that the modern generation will support and follow racing only if everyone taking part in the sport is seen to be consistently monitoring and caring for the thoroughbred’s welfare, and that applies throughout its life, from birth to death.

It is vital that every foal is accounted for and that every breeder is contactable so that if there are any issues over welfare or disease outbreaks, then the correct authorities can become involved

With that in mind, the TBA fully supports the new proposals recently announced by the BHA, which require all breeders to notify the existence of a new-born foal within 30 days of its birth. Such declaration means that the foal’s owner-breeder can be traced and the horse’s whereabouts are known to the appropriate regulatory authorities and the breeding industry.

It is vitally important that every foal is accounted for and that every breeder is contactable, so that if there are any issues over welfare or disease outbreaks, then the correct authorities can become involved.

Relying on the current registration process, which in some instances can happen a year after the foal is born, is no longer acceptable and risks creating serious issues around the traceability of the foal.

Knowing the precise location of every foal and knowing who is responsible for it allow direct communication to take place, and will make it much easier to inform others involved if a welfare issue arises. It will also bring us into line with other EU countries – an important factor as the path towards Brexit becomes clearer – and so will help facilitate the current ease of movement of the thoroughbred internationally.

The notification process will be simple and various online and telephone options will be trialed in 2018. The information provided by this notification must be available to the regulatory authorities for welfare purposes, as well as to the TBA so that it can ensure that the person responsible for the thoroughbred foal is fully aware of the rules and regulations surrounding its medication and what to do in the case of illness and disease outbreaks, either where the foal resides or nearby.

Direct communication from the TBA is vital, and anyone who breeds foals should have to hand the current HBLB Codes of Practice which are produced in conjunction with the TBA, and be as well-informed as possible in welfare and veterinary matters.

The TBA, which will continue to provide as much information and help to members as possible, believes that all these rules, regulations and advice on welfare are essential. They are part of a British system which will guarantee that our horses continue to be the best looked-after and cared-for in the modern racing world.

However, it is important that British breeders who adhere to these rules and regulations are operating on a level playing field. The authorities must demonstrate clearly, and in terms that are readily available, how they will ensure that only where we are certain that overseas breeders work to the same conditions will their horses be allowed to run in this country.

A zero tolerance policy on drugs is just that. Any fudging of the issue by the authorities would be unacceptable. It is up to the BHA to ensure that British breeders are not disadvantaged in any way, and at the TBA we look forward to publication of the regulations that will apply to those from jurisdictions which do not run this strict zero tolerance policy.

There are other issues regarding the import of racehorses from overseas where foreign breeders may have unfair advantages over their British counterparts, and the Brexit process will give us an opportunity to address some of them. I will return to this theme of supporting British breeders where fiscal and other advantages give overseas breeders an unjustifiable edge in the new year.

In the meantime I wish you all the very best for Christmas, and hope the new year brings healthy foals and success on the racecourse.

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