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EMHF - Welfare at the top of the agenda

INDUSTRYWeb Master
There is debate over the appropriateness of the use, in the context of horseracing, of the term ‘social licence.’ It is heard in our world with increasing frequency, but opponents point to the fact that it implies a formal power – which society, of course, does not hold, in any direct sense – to sanction or prohibit the sport. But it is surely incontestable that racing’s future is brighter where it enjoys broad public support and more precarious where there is widespread opposition. There is encouraging evidence that racing ‘gets’ this. As public sensibilities around the world shift towards ever greater concern for the wellbeing of animals, so there are numerous examples of racehorse welfare moving ever higher up the agenda of racing’s administrators. The tone has been set at the very top – it has been a mantra of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ (IFHA) chairman Louis Romanet in recent years that horse welfare must be central to the efforts of national racing authorities. And in Washington DC in May came a demonstration of the fact that our sport, where progress all too often is only achieved at glacial speed, can sometimes be nimble – dynamic, even. Alongside the Pan American Conference, but independent of it and of the IFHA, the first International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) was staged in front of a sizeable and engaged audience. Di Arbuthnot, the chief executive of British racing’s official charity in this space, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), and who is also chair of IFAR, explained that the original catalyst was a damning 1995 documentary on British television entitled ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’. The Jockey Club was quick to act to establish RoR at the time, but it took years for the racing public first to comprehend and then to get behind the concept of providing second careers for those thoroughbreds who retire from racing still sound in body and mind. Efforts to address this issue on an international basis only had their roots some three years ago. Symposia were held in Kentucky in 2015 and Newmarket in 2016 and, powered by the invaluable support of Godolphin, IFAR was launched earlier this year. These international discussions have clearly caught the imagination of administrators in several major racing nations. In France and Japan, to name two, significant strides have been made in a short space of time. Speakers from Britain, America, Australia, and elsewhere described substantial programmes to provide alternatives for the retired racehorse. Cultural differences mean that the shape of these programmes differs, but those delivering them have found that they have learnt from each other’s experiences and past mistakes. The IFAR approach can be seen at its website http://internationalracehorseaftercare.com/. A mature discussion of the issue of euthanasia is also being promoted by the forum. In summarising the work of IFAR to the main Pan American Conference, Arbuthnot pointed out that, “We all have a responsibility: whenever our horse finishes its racing life, there should be aftercare.” But her main message was aimed at the racing administrators who made up the bulk of the audience: “Every single racing jurisdiction must buy into this and ensure there is some sort of aftercare provision.”   Aftercare is, of course, just one – albeit important – aspect of racehorse welfare. There are countless others, and this is a subject to which we will return.   BEACH RACING IN EUROPE – THE IMPETUS GROWS Readers may recall mention, in the October 2016 issue of this magazine, of a new association of the seven European racecourses which stage official thoroughbred racing. The European Beach Racing Association is holding its first meeting in Morlaix, Brittany, on July 31st. Delegates will also be attending the beach race meeting at Plestin-les-Greves on the previous afternoon. Local tourist boards will be invited and the meeting will allow discussion of how the new association can raise the profile of beach racing, to the benefit not only of the tracks themselves but also of the local regions that surround them. We will also explore ways to bring to the attention of European trainers these remarkable fixtures, which offer owners a unique and highly agreeable ambiance in which to see their horses run. We believe enhanced publicity of this form of racing can bring great touristic benefits. The MEP Horse Group, in conjunction with the European Horse Network, is to hold a meeting on July 13th at the European Parliament on equestrian tourism, and I will be presenting on the Beach Racing Association to this gathering. Anyone with an interest in this initiative is invited to contact me at paullkhan@euromedracing.eu.       STOCKHOLM THE VENUE FOR A HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE GENERAL ASSEMBLY The European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation (EMHF) went back to its roots for its general assembly this year – to Stockholm, where the federation was launched in 2010. Now we have 28 member countries, and the meeting was attended by representatives of 20 of them – another record for a general assembly, which was very heartening. In racing, we all too often work in silos, blinkered to the experiences and perspectives of even our closest organisations. This isolationist tendency not only hinders development, it presents a fragmented image to decision-makers in Brussels and elsewhere. United, we could be far stronger. At EMHF, we have pursued an active policy of inclusion: inviting other organisations to link with us on the basis that we enjoy mutual observer status at each other’s general assemblies. This began with the European and Mediterranean Stud Book Liaison Committee. We then opened our doors in successive years to the Union Europeenne du Trot (UET) and the European Equestrian Federation (EEF). Most recently, the European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders’ Associations joined the fold. We can be proud of the fact that we are the only body that brings together thoroughbred racing, stud books, and breeders, as well as trotting and equestrian sport. The benefits of this approach were manifest at this year’s general assembly, where it was quite clear that we share common views and interests on matters such as ‘Brexit.’ We are determined to do all we can to impress on those negotiating Brexit that nothing should impair the level of ease of movement which racehorses currently enjoy when travelling internationally for racing, breeding, or other purposes. It is, for example, critical that the benefits of the Tripartite Agreement, in respect of thoroughbreds travelling between Great Britain, Ireland, and France, be maintained. The number of thoroughbreds that travel to, from, or through Britain each year is very high. The spectre of border queues is a real one which we must press to avert. The EMHF also agreed a stance on anabolic steroids and similar substances which goes above and beyond that of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. The relevant article in the IFHA’s International Agreement (Article 6E), while confirming that such major doping agents are not to be administered to racehorses at any time in their career, also makes provision for what is called a ‘Therapeutic Use Exemption.’ It sets out this circumstance: “When the Racing Authority has decided to offer the facility for such exceptional use for therapeutic purposes and where no other reasonable therapeutic alternative exists,” such substances may be administered. However, EMHF, mindful of the advice of the specialist committee for our region – the European Horserace Scientific Liaison Committee, does not support the inclusion – within its member countries’ rules of racing, of any such exemption. We also agreed to place an increasing focus, in each of our countries, on out-of-competition testing, which is so necessary now because of the emergence of substances whose effects can outlast their detectability, thereby rendering raceday testing potentially ineffective. It is hoped and expected that all EMHF member countries will follow this line. In this way, trainers in any of our countries can be confident that the field on which they are playing, when welcoming runners from abroad, is a level one. If one looks at the upper echelons of racing administration around the world, one cannot help but notice the absence of female faces. Chairmen of racing authorities are invariably just that – men, and even when the achievements of women are celebrated, it is noticeable that the recipients are usually chosen by men and their awards presented by men. EMHF has been as guilty of this bias as any and it was therefore most pleasing that our general assembly appointed women to not just one but both of the vacant positions on our executive council. Mrs Helena Gartner, Chief Administrative Officer at the Swedish Horseracing Authority, and Dr Martina Krejci, Secretary-General of the Jockey Club of the Czech Republic, become the first two female members at our top table. Let us hope this proves to be a small but significant step towards appropriate minority representation in the sport. Improved female representation is a subject dear to the heart of Bjorn Eklund, ex-CEO of the Swedish racing authority, who now maintains links with the organisation as our honorary life president. It is to him that I turn for the last word: “I'm proud that EMHF was set up in Stockholm seven years ago, with strong support from IFHA chairman Louis Romanet. We need each other in the horseracing world, big nations and small nations alike, as the racing world is more vulnerable than we sometimes think. “In EMHF we treat each other with mutual respect.”    

First published in European Trainer issue 58 - July - September 2017

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There is debate over the appropriateness of the use, in the context of horseracing, of the term ‘social licence.’

There is debate over the appropriateness of the use, in the context of horseracing, of the term ‘social licence.’ It is heard in our world with increasing frequency, but opponents point to the fact that it implies a formal power – which society, of course, does not hold, in any direct sense – to sanction or prohibit the sport. But it is surely incontestable that racing’s future is brighter where it enjoys broad public support and more precarious where there is widespread opposition. There is encouraging evidence that racing ‘gets’ this.

As public sensibilities around the world shift towards ever greater concern for the wellbeing of animals, so there are numerous examples of racehorse welfare moving ever higher up the agenda of racing’s administrators. The tone has been set at the very top – it has been a mantra of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ (IFHA) chairman Louis Romanet in recent years that horse welfare must be central to the efforts of national racing authorities.

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