BHA confirms scope of review into welfare at Cheltenham racecourse

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today confirmed the scope of the review of welfare at Cheltenham racecourse and the Cheltenham Festival.
The review – which was first announced on Friday 16 March – will look at the circumstances surrounding all recent equine fatalities and long-term injuries at the Cheltenham Festival – and more generally at the racecourse’s other fixtures – before publishing recommendations that have the intention of further reducing the level of risk to our equine athletes. The aims and objectives are as follows:

  • Adopt an evidence based approach to further British racing’s commitment to improving equine welfare;
  • To further reduce risks to horses racing at future Cheltenham Festivals and more broadly Cheltenham racecourse;
  • Demonstrate openness and transparency by publishing a review which seeks to continuously improve;
  • Utilise appropriate and relevant expertise to inform the review process.

The review will be led by Brant Dunshea, the BHA’s Director of Integrity and Regulatory Operations, and be coordinated by Emma Marley, Head of Racecourse Operations. It will also incorporate relevant internal and external experts to assist the review process, including recognised welfare organisations such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare.

The areas of focus will fall broadly into six main categories: The courses; the obstacles; participant factors; starts, safety factors and race tempo; programming and race conditions; and veterinary aspects.

The review is expected to be concluded in summer 2018, allowing sufficient time for recommendations to be implemented ahead of the 2018/19 Jump season.

Brant Dunshea said:

“As the sport’s independent regulator, the BHA has shown throughout its history that it is committed to taking measured, scientific, evidence-based steps to improve welfare standards.

“This has been shown in recent years by, for example, the comprehensive review of the Grand National which was published in 2011, and the ongoing improvements to racecourses which have contributed to the sport’s fatality rate falling by 1/3 in the last 30 years.

“It is vital that this review is carried out in a reasoned, measured manner and we fully consider the unintended consequences of any recommendations.

“It has been extremely positive to note the manner in which Cheltenham and others in the sport have welcomed this review, which is reflective of the fact that everyone in British racing puts the welfare of its participants as the number one priority.”

The BHA also recently announced that it would be examining whether the existing penalties for misuse of the whip, and how they apply, constitute an adequate deterrent to jockeys. This topic will be discussed by the BHA Board before the scope and timing of this project is finalised.