The retirement of Australian racehorses must be reported by their owners within 30 days in a rule introduced on July 1 by the Australian Racing Board.
The managing owner of each racehorse is now responsible for advising the industry’s data provider Racing Information Services Australia (RISA) the reason for their horse’s retirement and their plans for the horse beyond its racing career.
Owners will indicate whether their racehorse was retired due to illness, injury, for breeding purposes or at their request and whether the horse will be re-homed as an equestrian or pleasure horse, enter an official retirement program or be sent to a livestock sale.
The rule requiring trainers to notify authorities of the death of a racehorse in their care has also been strengthened, and trainers will be also be asked to inform authorities of the cause of the death.
The changes follow the recent publication of a study in the Australian Veterinary Journal, indicating that “horse turnover” – exit rates in the Australian racing industry – approached 40 percent.
The latest rule changes are intended to provide the industry with greater insight into the reasons why horses conclude their racing careers, as well as their activities post racing, thus supplying statistics which can be used to better direct education and welfare initiatives.
Racing Victoria (RV) Head of Equine Welfare and Veterinary Services, Dr Brian Stewart, has welcomed the establishment of what he described as “a significant welfare initiative for the industry”.
“The retirement of racehorse rule is something that Racing Victoria has actively campaigned for and we welcome the ARB’s decision to introduce it on a national level. The rule complements the range of initiatives we’re undertaking to manage the welfare of our equine athletes.
“By capturing enhanced information from owners and trainers we’ll be armed with accurate data around injuries and deaths, retirements and stable departures,” Stewart said.
“This will then assist us in Victoria to further develop our research and welfare initiatives as well as our Off the Track program which promotes the retraining and re-homing of thoroughbred racehorses.
“It’s also information which can be fed back to trainers and owners and will be beneficial in assisting them to make informed decisions in the future.”
Stewart said that most owners retire their horses responsibly, often within the broader equine sporting and pleasure markets, but that data could be improved.
He cited a 2013 University of Melbourne study which found that thoroughbreds with a connection to racing are the most commonly represented amongst Victoria’s 600,000 pleasure horses.
“Misleading figures and statistics about the destination of retired racehorses are often quoted by animal welfare groups and collating this data will help to ensure the industry is represented truthfully,” Stewart said.
“Ultimately, we are asking owners to take responsibility for providing information about the destination of their horse post racing so that we have accurate information on retired racehorses to better direct welfare programs.”
• Under the newly introduced Australian Rule of Racing 64JA, the managing owner of each horse is required to notify the industry’s data provider, Racing Information Services Australia, on the retirement of their horse.
Under the amended AR 64J, if a horse which has not been retired dies the registered trainer will be required to advise their relevant Principal Racing Authority and update the horse’s stable return via RISA’s online Stable Assist program.