The 2022 IFAR conference series concluded 19 April with the message that racing must ensure that our sport is sustainable for future generations, which requires making sure our horses are cared for from cradle to grave. IFAR partnered with the Japan Racing Association (Japanese Consultative Committee on Aftercare of Racehorses) to put on this year’s event, which was held as a series of two free virtual webinars.
Tuesday’s session was moderated by Australia-based racing broadcaster Caroline Searcy, and speakers were Michael Drapac, owner and breeder; Dr. Adrian Farrington, executive manager of Veterinary Clinical Services at The Hong Kong Jockey Club; Kirsten Green, executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project; and Jennifer Hughes, general manager of Equine Welfare for Racing Victoria.
The session also featured a young professionals’ panel moderated by Searcy and composed of Godolphin Flying Start trainees George Broughton and Elinor Wolf; Caoimhe Doherty, co-founder of Treo Eile and stud manager at Forenaghts Stud; Natasha Rose, Equestrian Affairs project manager and Retired Racehorse Unit manager for The Hong Kong Jockey Club; and Tom Ward, trainer.
Drapac discussed how we appear as an industry in the eyes of Millennials and Gen Zeds, who put social responsibility and environmental concerns above everything else. “We will be measured by how well we repurpose our horses,” Drapac said. “Every aspect of the breeding and racing industry must revisit what they do, and they must look at things through the lens of horses’ welfare and their purpose beyond their productive racing career.”
Sharing the information gleaned from post-racing programs in Australia, Hughes emphasized the importance of learning from the horses that have gone through such programs. “Post-racing efforts have to start on day one, and this requires a whole industry approach,” she said.
Green talked about the mission of the Retired Racehorse Project and how that organization’s annual Thoroughbred Makeover promotes the versatility of Thoroughbreds as sport horses. Hughes stressed the importance of marketing and how effective marketing can increase the demand and value of ex-racehorses.
Farrington gave an overview of the transitioning of racehorses off the track in Hong Kong. “The transition here of the retiring racehorses starts well before the date of their actual retirement. All the racing stable and the associated professionals, including vets and farriers, operate under the auspices of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, and that allows us to have close oversight and centralized medical records of the health and welfare of all horses in training,” he said. “Ultimately the aim is to identify horses with subtle performance-limiting issues before they become irreversible changes at the time of retirement.”
The group of young professionals were in unison on the importance of education and communication with those inside and outside the industry and that everybody in the racing industry, regardless of country or involvement, has a shared responsibility to care for racehorses throughout their lives. They also stressed the importance of traceability of ex-racehorses and that technology can help.
Eliot Forbes, member of the IFAR Steering Committee and chief executive officer of Racelab, closed the conference. “The decisions that we make today will shape the industry of tomorrow; the industry that this generation of young professionals will inherit. They know the world has changed, and that a sustainable industry will be one that is responsive, transparent, and compassionate.”
Recordings of both sessions of the 2022 conference are available at internationalracehorseaftercare.com/help-resources/conference-resources/ifar-conference-2022/.
Prior to the virtual conference series in 2021, IFAR had 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.