British Horseracing leads the way at international retired racehorses symposium

International delegation present in Kentucky to measure progress in welfare standards for horses after racing

Ahead of the race meeting that will see many of the world’s best thoroughbreds in action for the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of Retraining of Racehorses, was a keynote speaker at an international event focusing on those horses that do not get to retire to stud and need alternative careers after racing.

From Friday to Sunday, the Kentucky Horse Park hosted the three-day Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium. The event attracted nearly 200 horses from 44 states, plus representatives from the UK and Canada, and featured classes for former racehorses in disciplines as diverse as barrel racing and best working ranch horse, as well as dressage and showjumping.

Running concurrently with the events in the showring was a symposium bringing together representatives and charities from all the major racing countries, including Britain, Ireland, France, Australia and Japan, as well as the USA.

Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of British racing’s official charity, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), was impressed by the progress being made in a number of countries and reported a sea change in attitudes towards re-training former racehorses.

She said: “The whole event was extremely well run and it was a privilege to get the opportunity to speak at the symposium in front of an international audience. Thankfully and quite rightly, the subject of horse welfare for racehorses both during and after their racing careers is now considered a priority around the world.

Arbuthnot gave two presentations at the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium and in the process learned that several other racing countries had adopted a model based on what has been developed in Britain.

She added: “RoR’s ethos is to generate a demand for former racehorses by providing opportunities for them to participate and compete in other disciplines, with a view to that demand eventually meeting the supply of horses leaving racing. In recent years, we have made significant strides towards fulfilling this objective. Currently there are over 11,000 horses are registered on RoR’s database as active in other disciplines, an increase of 188% since 2010.

“It was very encouraging to find that other countries are following in our footsteps with similarly positive results and fascinating to learn of the successes and challenges other jurisdictions have experienced when setting up an infrastructure to provide for former racehorses.

“The Americans with their Retired Racehorse Project have made giant strides in recent years. It was only officially launched in 2010 and its success was there for all to see at the Kentucky Horse Park. Another jurisdiction making good progress is Racing Victoria in Australia. Just three years ago they met with us in the UK to see what we were doing with RoR and now they are growing and developing their own set up.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation showed their support for the event by facilitating attendance at the symposium for representatives from all the major racing countries’ equine charities.

Photos courtesy of Retired Racehorse Project