IGSRV Welfare Guidelines
The International Group of Specialist Racing Veterinarians (IGSRV) encourages those involved in Horseracing to act responsibly towards horses engaged in the sport. At all times the welfare of the horse remains paramount and should never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.
These Welfare Guidelines for Horseracing have been produced by the IGSRV to assist individual racing jurisdictions.
These Guidelines may be modified from time to time and the views of anyone interested in horse welfare are welcomed. Particular attention will be paid to new research findings, and the IGRSV encourages further funding and support for welfare studies.
Welfare Guidelines for horseracing
The housing, feeding and training of racehorses should be compatible with good horsemanship and must not compromise their welfare. Any practices which cause physical or mental suffering, whether in stables, training or racing, should not be tolerated.
Training methods which cause fear or impose undue restrictions on the normal behaviour of racehorses should not be used. Horses should only be given training schedules which match their physical capabilities and level of maturity. They should not be subjected to programmes for which they have not been properly prepared.
Horse shoes should be designed and fitted to minimise the risk of injury.
During transport to and from training grounds and racecourse, full attention should be paid to protecting horses against injuries and other health risks. Vehicles should be well ventilated and regularly maintained and disinfected.
Long journeys should be planned carefully and horses allowed regular rest periods and access to water. Respiratory problems can often be reduced if horses are able to lower their heads to floor level during rest periods.
No horse showing symptoms of disease, lameness or other ailment should be raced when to do so would be against its best interests. Whenever there is any doubt, a veterinary inspection should be requested and this should be undertaken before the horse is allowed to race.
Horses mature at widely different rates. Training and racing schedules should be carefully planned to minimise the risk of musculo-skeletal injuries.
Any surgical procedures which threaten a horse’s welfare, the safety of other horses and riders should not be allowed in racing.
Severe or Recurrent Clinical Conditions
Horses with severe or recurrent clinical conditions, e.g. “bleeders” should, on veterinary advice, be temporarily or permanently excluded from racing.
Mares should not be raced beyond 120 days of pregnancy.
Race tracks and racing surfaces should be designed and maintained to reduce risk factors which lead to injuries. Particular attention should be paid to crossings, uneven racing surfaces and extremes of surface quality.
Steeplechasing and hurdling
Participation in these races should be restricted to horses with demonstrated jumping ability. Weights to be carried, race distance, number, size and design of fences should all be carefully assessed when planning these races.
Common sense should be used when racing in extreme weather. Provision should be made to cool horses quickly after racing in hot and/or humid conditions. Horses which have raced in cold weather should be moved inside as soon as possible.
Misuse of the whip
Abuse of the whip cannot be condoned, for example, to make a beaten horse run faster, or if a horse is unable to respond, or if a horse is clearly winning. Any postrace whip weals clearly indicate injury.
After any veterinary treatment, time should be allowed for full recovery before competition. The main purpose of rules controlling the use of drugs should be to protect the welfare of the horse and the safety of riders. Additionally, these rules should prevent unfair competition and the masking of defects which might be passed on at stud.
Racecourse stabling should be safe, hygienic, comfortable and well-ventilated. Horses should be able to lie down in comfort without risk of injury. Fresh drinking water, and washing-down water should always be available.
Horses should be adequately prepared so as to be familiar with loading procedures. Barriers should be properly designed and safe. Aids to loading should be limited to encouraging a horse without causing alarm or fear.
When a horse is injured during a race, jockeys should dismount and the horse should be collected by ambulance whenever necessary. Veterinary expertise should always be available on the racecourse. If required the horse should be transported to the nearest referral centre for further assessment and therapy. Injured horses should be given full supportive treatment before transport.
The incidence of injuries sustained in racing and training should be monitored. Track conditions, frequency of racing, immaturity, and any other risk factors, should be carefully examined to indicate ways to minimise severe injuries.
If injuries are sufficiently severe the horse may need to be destroyed on humane grounds. Euthanasia should be undertaken as soon as possible with the sole aim of minimising suffering.
Owners should make every effort to ensure that their horses are sympathetically and humanely treated when they leave racing. Racehorses should be permanently identified and registered, so that their welfare in retirement can be monitored.
IGSRV Principles for Acceptable Welfare Practices in Horseracing
The International Group of Specialist Racing Veterinarians (IGSRV) expects those involved in horse racing to act responsibly towards all horses engaged in the sport. The IGSRV considers that the health and welfare of the horse must be recognized as fundamental concerns for all industry participants and that racing authorities should have appropriate measures in place to ensure that these are not compromised.
The document entitled “IGSRV Welfare Guidelines for Horse Racing” outlines the principles for the ethical management of horses. The IGSRV Principles for Acceptable Welfare Practices in Horseracing complements the former document and addresses practices that are considered to have no place in the treatment or management of racehorses and practices that may have legitimate value but should be controlled or otherwise restricted.
Racing authorities are expected to monitor the welfare of racehorses and are encouraged to design and implement programs to improve the health and welfare of racehorses in their jurisdiction. The IGSRV is committed to the advancement of equine research and particularly that which is designed to enhance the health and welfare of the racehorse. Racing authorities and their veterinary advisors are encouraged to be proactive in the support of relevant research, to continually review and upgrade their equine welfare policies in light of new research findings and strive to adopt principles of “best practice” with respect to equine welfare.
The IGSRV has identified two key areas that racing authorities should consider when developing health and welfare strategies:
The use of any object, device or chemical to achieve an inappropriate response, conditioned or otherwise, or to modify performance in any way by causing suffering and / or anxiety to the horse at any time during training or racing.
Subjecting horses to medical or surgical procedures that have not been supervised by a licensed veterinarian and are not consistent with providing medical and/or welfare benefits to the horse.
Practices that are fraudulent, potentially fraudulent or may have adverse consequences for the integrity of the breed or the industry.
Tampering by means of any physical, chemical or physiological interference with a racehorse intended to artificially modify its athletic performance in any way.
The IGSRV recognises that there are certain products, procedures and treatment modalities that may have therapeutic benefits when applied appropriately under veterinary supervision. Such practices should be monitored and regulated as deemed appropriate by the regulatory veterinary authority of individual racing jurisdictions to ensure adequate control and compliance. Regulation may include the recommendation and enforcement of withdrawal times.