Representatives of all sides of British racing have welcomed the latest set of grant awards from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) which will fund cutting edge research work in equine veterinary care, demonstrating that in British racing the health and welfare of the horse is at the heart of everything that happens in the sport.
Since the Levy Board began in 1961, over £60m has been applied to research and education with the aim of improving the health and welfare of the Thoroughbred. This investment has led to significant advances in the understanding, prevention, treatment and management of a wide variety of diseases, injuries and issues affecting horses. To date there have been nearly 800 research projects supported, and approaching 300 scholarships, intended to attract the brightest young talent to work with Thoroughbred racehorses. As well as the funding that flows from the levy itself, there is direct financial support from The Racing Foundation, the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the Racehorse Owners Association and the British European Breeders Fund.
HBLB also funds infectious disease surveillance, designed to ensure the Industry is kept informed and advised of best practice at all times. It is vital both for racing in this country and for the valuable export trade that the Thoroughbred population is kept healthy and disease-free.
The latest equine veterinary research is increasingly influencing and further improving the level of care in British horseracing training centres thanks to the work of the Thoroughbred Health Network. Launched as a Northern pilot project in June 2015 by the University of Glasgow & the University of Edinburgh, funded by the SSPCA and The Racing Foundation. The Thoroughbred Health Network became a UK wide initiative in March 2017. It aims to make equine veterinary research more accessible to UK racehorse owners and trainers via its www.thoroughbredhealthnetwork.co.uk which is free to subscribe to. The team translates research into an easy to read format and uses a traffic light coded system to help trainers assess the strength of scientific evidence available for a variety of different treatment options. For the first time a strong network of trainers, vets, owners and academics has been established to ensure that, across the UK, the welfare of the horse comes first.
The growing Thoroughbred Health Network, now a charitable trust in its own right, will be well placed to ensure that the ongoing programme of research funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board has prompt and positive impact of racehorse welfare. The HBLB’s VAC also includes a diverse range of veterinary and scientific experts able to cover all the areas of interest and sharing an enthusiasm for achieving the highest quality research, with demonstrable practical benefits to the racehorse. Industry representatives are brought into the discussion, advising on the research priorities and commenting on funding applications and their value to racing.
Announcing the new awards starting in 2017, Professor Sandy Love, Chair of the Veterinary Advisory Committee of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, said “Maintaining racing’s investment in veterinary research and education is absolutely essential for the health and wellbeing of our horses. In selecting the projects and scholarships to recommend for funding, the HBLB’s VAC has two paramount principles: the chosen work has to be scientifically robust and clearly relevant to the racing, breeding and rearing of Thoroughbreds.”
Speaking on behalf of the Horse Comes First, the racing industry wide group to promote awareness of equine welfare issues, British Horseracing Authority Head of Media Robin Mounsey said, “It is important that more people are aware of the huge investment that racing makes in equine veterinary research and education. Racing has a duty of care to the horses that make the sport possible and it takes its responsibilities extremely seriously. Research funded by racing not only benefits racehorses in the UK but also supports the health and welfare of the wider equine population.”
Professor Tim Parkin, Head of the Division of Equine Clinical Sciences & Clinical Director of the Weipers Centre Equine Hospital, University of Glasgow and leading collaborator for the Thoroughbred Health Network said: “The THN is now being promoted as a UK wide initiative that will consider common health problems for all horses, not just racehorses. The primary objectives of the THN remain the same, just with a wider focus. Our objectives are to establish a network of those whose common goal is to minimise the impact of equine injury and disease and translate all available research on the most common health and performance-limiting problems into easily understandable key points to maximise the health of horses.”
The new HBLB grants include cutting edge work on:-
• The identification of novel, non-surgical techniques for preventing and/or mitigating breathing problems
• The invention of a device to evaluate racehorse shoes objectively and effectively, taking into account individual characteristics and the surface to be raced on
• Investigation of potential new treatments and/or vaccines to counter the very common disease affecting foals, Rhodococcus Equi
• The impact of hepaciviruses
• Injury risk factors in jump racing
• Alternative treatments for Rhodococcus Equi and pneumonia in foals
• New imaging techniques for cardiovascular assessment
• Causes and differentiation of types of pulmonary haemorrhage
• Exercise physiology and musculoskeletal development
The HBLB’s current strategic research priorities and scope appear on hblb.org.uk.