The British Horseracing Authority certainly receives its fair share of negative press. Any organisation that governs will need to make difficult calls from time to time, with the probability that a few of those decisions will meet with disapproval from some, if not many.
But there can be no doubt that the BHA does an incredible amount of terrific work for the good of the sport, and especially where the well-being of both riders and horses are concerned.
Together with that of jockeys, the welfare of the sport’s equine participants is of the utmost importance to the British Horseracing Authority. There are many issues that come under scrutiny. Dope testing takes place on a daily basis at meetings around the UK. There have been several high-profile cases this year alone, and the BHA’s Integrity and Compliance team are involved in ensuring strict rules and guidelines are followed. They are supported in this work by the racecourse and BHA vets that carry out pre and post-race testing of horses.
Testing also takes place away from the course. The BHA carry-out unannounced visits to stables where blood, urine or hair samples can be taken to be tested.
The whip rule changes brought about widespread debate with many within the sport vociferous in their opposition. The changes were put in place to maintain the integrity of horse racing along with enhancing the image of a sport that truly cares for its participants. Many will still question the true effect on a horse from coming under the whip, but there is no doubt that the sight of a horse being hit repeatedly towards the end of a lung bursting four mile chase, is one that the sport is best without.
All racehorses trained in Britain are stabled at licenced premises. The BHA set standards of care that far exceed those set under animal welfare legislation. The industry employs over 6,000 people, all trained and qualified to provide the very best care for around 14,000 horses in training at any one time. Likewise the BHA licence every racecourse ensuring that all facilities and the racing surface is maintained to a high standard. The safety of both horse and jockey are paramount.
Should a horse be injured in an incident during a race, a veterinary team is on hand to give immediate treatment and attention. Qualified paramedics and doctors are also on site to give support to any injured jockeys. On occasion both horses and jockeys may need to be transported from the course for further medical assistance. The sport is committed to providing the highest standard of veterinary care, and has invested over £25 million since 2000 in Veterinary Research and Education.
Such efforts surrounding welfare, education and training of staff, and the investment in medical care, continues to improve the life of the racehorse. Indeed within the last 20 years, the equine fatality rate in British Racing has fallen by one-third.
But the life of these wonderful creatures has to continue after their final race. There are currently over 10,000 former racehorses registered as active in other equine disciplines. Polo, Showing, Dressage and Eventing, as well as those happily engaged in hacking and exercising, are all follow-on activities for the sports ex-pros. One of jump racing’s greats, Kauto Star, was ‘strutting his stuff’ just yesterday at Olympia.
Jockeys and stable staff also need help and support when injured or maybe after a career in racing is over. Issues such as physical occupational health and rehabilitation, housing, mental health, medical insurance or financial advice all come under the remit of many BHA led support welfare initiatives.
Two main charitable providers of welfare services within racing are Racing Welfare (for all racing staff) and the Injured Jockeys Fund (for jockeys). Many great initiatives have taken place in recent times. The establishment of the Injured Jockeys Funds rehabilitation centre at Oaksey House shows the commitment of an industry to care for its participants. Jack Berry House is soon to follow in the north of the country, offering similarly wonderful facilities, and the Racing Centre at Newmarket is also set to follow suit.
From licencing to handicapping, racecourse regulation to medical services, the BHA’s role is wide and varied. All parts however are run with the aim of ensuring that this wonderful sport protects and supports the thousands that play such a key role within the industry, whether human or equine.