RSPCA Equine Inspectors to Monitor England's Grand National

A team of specially-trained Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (RSPCA) equine inspectors will be attending the three day Grand National meeting this year, which takes place April 12-14 at Aintree Racecourse in Aintree, Merseyside, England. They will be joined the world famous course by an RSPCA superintendent, a chief inspector, and the RSPCA's equine consultant, David Muir.

Two horses were killed at the 2011 running of the famed British race. Several changes were made to the steeplechase course after the race in an attempt to promote safety among participants.

Chief Inspector Cathy Hyde, the RSPCA's national equine coordinator, said, "Our equine inspectors are passionate about horses. They are highly trained professionals with specialist equine knowledge, they all have horsey backgrounds and they know what they are talking about when it comes to welfare. "We will be at Aintree for racehorses' welfare. I'm proud to be heading a team of professional, experienced inspectors with a love of horses who will be making sure welfare is the real winner."

The equine inspectors will be at Aintree throughout the three-day meet in the run-up to the Grand National--widely regarded as the world's most testing jump race.

The RSPCA has successfully worked closely with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the management of Aintree in recent years to introduce a number of welfare-related changes including:

  • Jumps have been modified to make them safer and more inviting for horses (modifications include angling fences to make them more inviting for horses to jump, padding of fence bars for extra protection, improvements to the landing side of Becher's Brook [the largest fence on the course], a large ditch has been removed, and the steep bank has been reduced);
  • The introduction of shock absorbent whips;
  • New whip rules which restrict the number of times a jockey can use the whip during a race;
  • Pre-race veterinary inspections for all horses;
  • Run-out areas have been created to allow loose horses to leave the course safely;
  • Tighter entry controls for horses and riders (e.g., no amateur jockeys are permitted, handicap levels have been raised, and the BHA can declare any horse unfit);
  • Rubberized walkways to prevent horses slipping and getting injured; and
  • Jockeys can no longer remount horses if they have fallen.

Muir said, "There have been many equine welfare improvements over the years and the BHA and Aintree management have agreed to continue to take into account the RSPCA's concerns and explore the means of further reducing the risk factors to horses. I am pleased that the course will have been watered so it runs no faster than good.

"Once again I would like to remind jockeys although I am aware of their desire in wanting to win, it must not be at all costs," he continued. "Overly tired horses and those not in contention should be pulled up to ensure their safe return to stables, the paramount factor in racing."

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.