Equine welfare and worldwide aftercare initiatives were in the spotlight during a session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul, where current developments were highlighted.
Following the recent conference of the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR), Jockey Club president and COO Jim Gagliano presented the strategic goals and future plans of the organization. He also provided delegates with an overview of the Man o' War Project, recently launched in the U.S.
"IFAR was created as an independent forum to enhance Thoroughbred aftercare and help increase worldwide demand for former racehorses in other equestrian sports. Over the next few years, IFAR plans to develop into a world leader on aftercare strategy. We hope to have all racing jurisdictions sign an aftercare code of practice and develop traceability systems to track all racehorses.
"Considering the immediate access to global news via the internet and social media, how our sport is perceived and how we treat the Thoroughbred athletes who are the lifeblood of our sport is more important than ever," Gagliano said. "In the U.S., we have focused on Thoroughbred aftercare for many years, but we still have much to learn from other countries, and I am glad that IFAR enables us to share best practices."
Gagliano went on to brief the delegates on the various projects The Jockey Club has undertaken or funded, including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, The Jockey Club's Checkoff program, and Thoroughbred Connect, a free microchip and tattoo lookup service.
The Man O' War Project is the latest initiative supported by The Jockey Club.
"Although anecdotal evidence suggests that equine-assisted therapy benefits people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there has never been any clinical evidence to substantiate it. The Man O' War Project is a university-led research trial to determine the effectiveness of equine-assisted therapy and to establish guidelines for the application of equine-assisted therapy for veterans with PTSD," Gagliano said. "Many people believe Thoroughbreds are ideal candidates for therapy programs, and these programs are the perfect second career for many of our retired equine athletes. Therefore, we look forward to the results of the research."
The session was led by Frances Nelson, chair of Racing Australia, who provided an interesting insights into Racing Australia's 2016 reforms. These reforms included improved welfare outcomes from early foal registrations to a comprehensive traceability program.
"The Australian Thoroughbred racing industry generates in excess of $8.3 billion in economic value and the horse is integral to the industry. Racing must communicate our values and welfare practices to the wider community," Nelson said. "Racing Australia has been working for some time on furthering welfare issues to do just this. Under the new rules, the reason for retirement, as well as plans for the horse beyond its racing career must be supplied upon retirement. Racehorses must be retired at the age of 12 years and this is enforced.
"The implementation of these policies has helped us to improve industry integrity, deepened knowledge of the industry, given us facts and figures to assist industry communications and demonstrated the responsibility and transparency of the industry."