THE Horse Welfare Board (HWB) are confident that the nationwide lockdown does not pose a risk to horse welfare.
The HWB was formed in February as an independent body to oversee the standards of welfare and safety in racing in Britain – and they have already recommended a number of changes to the BHA.
One such recommendation was to increase racehorse ‘traceability’ – to track a horse’s whereabouts throughout their life and cut down on the number of horses who fall off the map once out of training.
And with the likelihood of a recession post-lockdown, there is a strong possibility that some owners will be unable to afford to keep their horses in training.
If horses begin to be taken out of racing yards, it will provide an early test for the HWB’s strategy going forward, though authorities hope a ‘hardship fund’ will give struggling owners a helping hand.
David Sykes, BHA director of equine health and welfare and HWB panel member, told Sun Racing: “The creation of the Racing Relief Fund was announced on 17 March, led by the Racehorse Owners Association, to meet the welfare needs of horses whose owners are suffering financial hardship.
“This will provide up to £2.5 million of grants to assist with the costs of looking after horses, in racing stables and in rehoming centres.
“Additionally the working group has been working to increase traceability and ensure a “safety net” for racehorses in partnership with organisations such as Weatherbys as well as equine vets and retirement charities and homes.
“Having racing’s dedicated charity Retraining of Racehorses within the working group allows us to get first-hand experience of the situation on the ground in relation to horses which may be retired as a result of the current situation and suspension of racing.
“British racing has also been liaising with Defra as the appropriate government department and will continue to ensure that as an industry our duty of care to racehorses after they have been retired remains as it does under normal circumstances.”
To date, the training routine of the vast majority of the racehorse population has been largely unaffected since racing was suspended on 18 March.
And Sykes reckons that will continue as Britain seeks to resume racing in the near future.
He said: “Since the outset of the COVID pandemic and the suspension of racing, ensuring the high welfare standards that exist within British racing are maintained has been a key priority.
“In the very early stages a working group was established with representation from the owners, trainers, breeders, the BHA, the Horse Welfare Board, Retraining of Racehorses and external organisations such as World Horse Welfare and BEVA, to protect the welfare of horses, identify related needs as they emerge and ensure appropriate resources are available.
“We’re not currently aware of any widespread welfare issues having arisen as a result of the lockdown.
“The fact that racehorses in this country continue to receive the first class care they are accustomed to despite the challenging circumstances is testament to the dedication of those working in our industry.”