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Spotlight on Welfare

As one of the nation's biggest industries, the people involved in racing come from all walks of life and hold a multitude of different jobs and interests. But there's one core element that brings us all together - the horse. For without those majestic animals, there would be no racing industry.

*The Racing Victoria website has dedicated pages to equine welfare. Find out more HERE

At that core, is a deep seated love and respect for the animal. A respect that has seen long term, realistic welfare strategies implemented to ensure racehorses are protected and cared for both during and after their racing lives. A respect that has seen the creation of jobs dedicated to this process. A respect that has seen it mandatory to report when a horse is retired, and a respect that has seen 1% of all prizemoney allocated to Welfare Funds.

Despite what you may read via anti-racing activists, each state Racing Authority has solid welfare practices in place. The NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust (TRT) runs an initiative set up by Racing NSW and Corrective Services NSW that offers a unique way to rehabilitate former racehorses and correction facility inmates alike. Racing Victoria's Off the Track program also facilitates the transition of retired racehorses into second careers such as equestrian competition, companion and therapy animals, pleasure riding and working horses.

The pro/anti racing debate on social media has become almost as much of a Spring ritual as a champagne breakfast on Melbourne Cup Day. I find myself regularly challenging my non-racing friends on the latest animal rights memes they've shared without questioning the message it contains. In all my years in this industry across 3 different states, I've never once seen first hand an act of cruelty committed towards a racehorse, however I'm not naive enough to believe that mismanagement and neglect doesn't occur. Unfortunately we cannot control the actions of a minority but there definitely are measures in place that reduce the chances of it happening.

Last week the industry scored itself a new champion in the promotion of equine welfare - Horse vet, clinic owner and PhD student, Dr Meredith Flash.

At the Australian Veterinary Association conference in Melbourne, Dr Flash presented that much of the information animal rights activists use in campaigns opposing horse racing is misleading or wrong. In her address Horse Racing Myths: What role does research play?, Dr Flash presented findings from her 2005 Victorian thoroughbred foal crop epidemiology study, which disproves myths spread by animal rights groups about two-year-old racing and horse welfare, un-raced and retired racehorses being sent to slaughter, and low racing participation rates among thoroughbred foal crops.

Dr Flash's foal crop study showed most horses trained (74%) and raced (65%), contradicting claims by animal activists that the racing industry is responsible for so-called 'wastage' due to over breeding.

"Some activists have even redefined legitimate research terms like 'wastage', claiming it is racing industry parlance for unwanted horses, when in fact it is a veterinary term to describe a loss of productivity. Veterinarians and researchers need to call out this misleading behavior."

You can read the full article and more of Dr Flash's study on BREEDNET.

I really hope Dr Flash's report inspires both racing authorities and media to start actively engaging with the community on this topic. Let's put aside the champagne and fashion for a minute and turn the spotlight on correcting the lies, spreading the facts, changing opinions and promoting the people putting the hard work into the welfare component of our fantastic industry.

*Dr Meredith Flash . Image courtesy of Breednet.

Do you have an equine welfare question? Feel free to comment on social media or drop me a line at

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