Image David Davies/PA Photos
Racehorse welfare is a contentious issue, which sparks great debate between animal activists and racing fans – but conditions for the horses are improving every year, according to a leading sports vet.
At this year’s Grand National all 40 runners and riders came back unhurt – making it the fifth year with no fatalities. This follows a number of changes to the course made by the British Horseracing Authority, including making the fences less rigid and reducing the drop at Becher’s Brook.
It’s not just the high profile races that receive the best veterinary care. Vet Graham Potts from Three Counties Equine Hospital attended a recent point-to-point fixture at Worcester Racecourse, where he spoke to H&C’s Jenny Rudall about the work he does.
“There’s no question the horses enjoy racing, but our job is to make sure it’s done safely and the horses’ welfare comes first,” said Graham, who worked with the Australian Equestrian Team for more than 15 years and had attended six World Games and five Olympic Games.
As well as ensuring race safety, the horse’s after-care is also vital. You may have noticed at the Grand National that the winning jockey Derek Fox had to make the long walk back to the winner’s enclosure on foot. Aintree decided that due to the warm weather it was in the best interests of the horses’ welfare that the first four home were dismounted on the course and taken straight to the wash-down area to cool off.
According to Graham the coverage of horse welfare on such a public platform has a trickle-down effect.
“The welfare and cooling of the horse is becoming more and more common – people are aware of it, but 10 years ago they weren’t,” he said. “Many point-to-points go to great lengths to provide cooling facilities. It is really important for the horse’s welfare, particularly when the temperature rises.”
To see this fascinating interview with Graham in full, as well as thrilling point-to-point action, don’t miss Rudall’s Round-Up: Worcestershire P2P when it airs on 24 April at 8.30pm on Sky 253. If you don’t have Sky you watch online by subscribing to H&C Play.