The International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) continued its 2021 virtual series Tuesday with presentations on aftercare perspectives from racing administrators and regulators representing Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. This session is the second in a series of four webinars that comprise the 2021 IFAR Conference.
Tuesday’s session was moderated by Australia-based broadcaster Caroline Searcy, and the panelist group consisted of Aidan Butler, chief operating officer, 1/ST Racing and president, 1/ST Content (U.S.); Martin Burns, general manager, Welfare & Sustainability, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing; Simon Cooper, director, Weatherbys, General Stud Book (U.K.); and Dr. Anna Smet, animal welfare manager, Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA).
All four speakers discussed the traceability measures that their organizations use or have developed to keep track of racehorses throughout their lives. Additionally, they suggested that having a dedicated individual or resource to contact through an administrative or regulatory body was an instrumental part of driving change toward prioritizing aftercare.
Butler talked about the efforts of 1/ST Racing to track horses at their racing facilities and to coordinate with accredited aftercare organizations to place horses that need homes. 1/ST operates Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Santa Anita Park, and venues under the umbrella of the Maryland Jockey Club. All of 1/ST’s racing sites have a fulltime Thoroughbred placement liaison who is accessible to horsemen 24/7.
“It is fundamentally important to aftercare to know where horses are going when they have left the racetrack,” Butler said.
Butler also remarked that “things of changed” for the positive in terms of how the Thoroughbred industry considers aftercare and “elongating our duty of care to the horse.”
Burns discussed the aftercare landscape in New Zealand and the increased investment in traceability measures in that jurisdiction, where the “culture of compliance” on the importance of submitting this data is developing. He also emphasized how effective aftercare practices, including stories of post-racing successes, are part of the strategy of repelling anti-racing sentiment.
“Communications must convey accountability and responsibility,” Burns said. “Robust data is important but not everything. Anecdotal stories are compelling. … We must be able to convey information that ensures ongoing public trust in racing.”
Cooper lauded the benefits of the Weatherbys e-passport over paper documentation, which he described as the key barrier to effective traceability. The digital passport enables immediate documentation of major events in a horse’s life, from an owner change and traveling to notification of retirement and vaccinations. Cooper believes that documentation of these events in a horse’s life should be mandatory and be submitted to a horse’s records within a certain time frame of their occurrence.
“Education and communication is an incredibly important part of this,” he said.
Smet described the racehorse welfare plan established by RWWA in 2019, which has resulted in the creation of the Off-the-Track WA Retraining Program and a digital passport to track horses. The goal of the retraining program is to complement established pathways for rehoming post-racing and to provide an alternate option for horses that are not selected by retrainers or sold/gifted easily, such as those in remote locations.
“At the end of the day, the horses are really the champions of the sport,” said Smet. “It’s really important that we’re doing everything we can to set them up for success after racing.”
The third session of the 2021 IFAR is scheduled for 20 April at 12 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. in the U.K.) and titled, “Global Insights on Aftercare (Aftercare Providers, Equine Charities).”
Moderated by Donna Brothers, who is part of the horse racing coverage team for NBC Sports in the United States, panelists will include Stacie Clark, operations consultant, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (U.S.); Lisa Coffey, founder and director, Racing Hearts (AUS); John Osborne, director of Equine Welfare and Bloodstock, Horse Racing Ireland; Dr. Ignacio Pavlovsky, veterinarian, owner, and breeder (ARG); and Kristin Werner, senior counsel, The Jockey Club and administrator, Thoroughbred Incentive Program (U.S.).
The full schedule of webinars, including speakers, moderators, presentation topics, bios, and the link to register can be found at internationalracehorseaftercare.com/virtual-ifar/. All sessions are free, but registration is required. Those who attend each session live will be able to ask questions to presenters. A recording of the first two sessions is available at internationalracehorseaftercare.com/help-resources/conference-resources/ifar-conference-2021/.
IFAR has previously been held in conjunction with the Asian Racing Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in February 2020; the European & Mediterranean Horseracing Federation’s General Assembly in Oslo, Norway, in May 2019; the Asian Racing Conference in Seoul, South Korea, in May 2018; and the Pan American Conference in Washington, D.C., in May 2017. IFAR is an independent forum that recognizes geographical and industry differences among racing countries and is designed to enhance Thoroughbred aftercare worldwide. Working with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, IFAR will raise awareness of the importance of welfare for Thoroughbreds, improve education on lifetime care, and help increase demand for former racehorses in other equestrian sports. For more information on IFAR, visit internationalracehorseaftercare.com.