Recommendations from independent review of RoR - Appointment of Paul Jepson as RoR Welfare Consultant

The independent review of the strategy and policy of Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), British racing's official charity for the welfare of former racehorses, has been completed. The recommendations include the creation of a new role of Welfare Consultant, to which the former President of BEVA and Chief Executive of the Horse Trust, Paul Jepson has been appointed.

Other recommendations include RoR establishing an online 'for sale' site and staging its own public auction with a recognised sales company with the charity becoming the 'one stop shop' and 'go to' organisation for assisting owners and trainers in re-homing former racehorses. It also recommends an expansion of the existing competition series and events programme, and an expansion of RoR's regional activities, including the education programmes that focus on engaging with owners of former racehorses at less experienced and competitive levels.

The review, carried out by Jonny McIrvine, former Chief Executive of the charity that is now World Horse Welfare, recommended that the primary role of the four RoR supported centres should be to care for 'vulnerable and unwanted' horses, in accordance with charity’s objects, and that future levels of funding from RoR should reflect each centre's ability to meet criteria relating to that objective. The review also recommended that RoR improve the geographical spread of approved centres and enlist further suitably equipped locations to be available to care for horses.

Paul Jepson, in the new role of RoR Welfare Consultant, will be the principal liaison point for all RoR supported or approved centres. He will use his experience as both a veterinary surgeon and former consultant to Government on equine welfare to work with other welfare organisations and in monitoring any ‘vulnerable and unwanted’ former racehorses.

Running in parallel to Jonny McIrvine’s review, Deloitte have carried out a separate project with funding support from the Racing Foundation, one of the aims of which is to get an accurate and up to date picture of the career paths of horses leaving training in Britain. To date the project has reviewed four years of data (2008-2011) and by the final year over 90% of horses leaving training were accounted for. Throughout, the largest proportion of horses, c.40%, were found second careers outside of racing. While the methodology used and data available differed from the previous piece of work, which looked at horses leaving training in 2006, the figures showed a significant drop in the number of unaccounted for horses (19% down to 8%). Deloitte will be making recommendations on how the data quality and timeliness of its collection can be improved, which will further reduce the proportion of unaccounted for horses.

Paul Roy, Chairman of RoR, said:

"I would like to thank Jonny McIrvine for compiling such a comprehensive and constructive report. The review established that RoR, through the creation and development of a series of exclusive competitions, has engineered an increase in the demand for former racehorses. Indeed, the goal of balancing the supply of horses leaving racing with the demand for them in other roles is largely being achieved.

"Among the range of the review's recommendations, there are three key themes. Firstly, an expansion of the policies that have facilitated the increase in demand for former racehorses in other equine activities. There are now over 10,000 horses registered on RoR's database and the charity stages shows and competitions across 12 different equine disciplines. These will continue to be expanded, together with more activities and educational programmes at regional level to engage with the grass roots of horse ownership.

"Where previously there was a perception that the charity's work was predominantly about rehabilitation and re-homing via the centres, the success of the competition series has highlighted the versatility of the Thoroughbred and created a genuine commercial market for former racehorses. That said, the centres still perform a vital role in providing a safety net for 'vulnerable and unwanted' former racehorses.

"Consequently, another theme running through the recommendations is the implementation of steps to bolster existing measures that protect the welfare of former racehorses and we are both fortunate and delighted to have recruited someone as experienced and respected in field of equine welfare as Paul Jepson in the role of RoR Welfare Consultant. His appointment will undoubtedly strengthen RoR, whose small team, led by Chief Executive Di Arbuthnot, does an excellent job.

“The third theme relates to the need for improved communication, both directly to racing and its constituents and to the wider public so that the work of the charity is better understood and appreciated. This in turn will enable the charity to be more effective in meeting its objectives. Currently, there is arguably greater awareness of RoR among the wider equestrian world than there is within racing, this imbalance needs to change.

"In summary, the review’s findings underline how far the charity has come since its inception in 2000. The implementation phase has already commenced and we are confident that the review will help set the strategic direction for the charity over the next five to ten years, enabling RoR to build further on the excellent work it is already doing.”

Summary of key findings and recommendations

1. Creating demand for former racehorses and providing advice and education for their keepers are the main pillars of RoR. By facilitating the re-training and re-homing process RoR reduces the potential, while still providing a safety net, for the vulnerable ex-racehorse. 

2. RoR should be the ‘one stop’ shop and ‘go to’ organisation to help owners/trainers re-home former racehorses. To offer a dedicated database, a ‘for sale’ site, a RoR auction and a list of recommended re-trainers to assist in assessing a horse’s options. 

3. Clarify the role of the centres to care for ‘vulnerable and unwanted’ horses. Over a period of time adjust current financial support by introducing more specific criteria and processes for grant funding. In addition to the four charitable centres currently supported, encourage and enlist further centres to provide rescue, rehoming and retraining for RoR to increase capability and improve geographical coverage.

4. Continue to promote the former racehorse by expanding the competition series and events programme where appropriate. Initiatives to include a series for horses that are unraced/in training or raced overseas. Hold a dedicated RoR horse show and Awards evening. 

5. Expand the regional programme with more grass roots events, more education courses and continue the ‘asktheexperts’ service. Appoint a national co-ordinator to work with regional co-ordinators who provide instruction, guidance and support for owners and riders. 

6. Work with other charitable bodies to encourage the use of former racehorses in therapy programmes. 

7.  RoR to seek support from BHA/ROA/NTF to raise awareness and encourage a responsible attitude to rehoming by all owners and trainers through licensing and ownership packs. Promote information sharing about horses’ careers post racing.

8. Develop a transparent and pragmatic euthanasia policy supported by the industry.

9. Acknowledging the increased scale of RoR’s activities, expand the executive team and operational capacity. Appoint a Welfare Consultant to monitor vulnerable and unwanted horses and act as liaison with the centres. 

10. Effectively communicate the role of RoR particularly to the racing and sport horse world and highlight the next stage of RoR’s development and future strategy.