Racing Victoria releases five year equine welfare strategic plan

Racing Victoria (RV) has today released its 2023-27 Equine Welfare Strategic Plan (EWSP). It will set the agenda for the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry’s equine welfare focus for the next five years.

The new EWSP builds on the 2019 EWSP, incorporating feedback from RV’s Equine Welfare Advisory Council, racing participants, owners, retrainers, animal welfare groups and horse sports associations through the period.

For the next five years RV will prioritise seven focus areas. This includes three themes which continue from the 2019 EWSP:

  • Life After Racing
  • Injury Prevention
  • Traceability

And four new priorities:

  • Physical Welfare
  • Behavioural Welfare
  • Vulnerable Thoroughbreds
  • Breeding Welfare

The Victorian thoroughbred racing industry will continue to contribute 2% of prizemoney to equine welfare to support these focus areas.

A total of $27 million was directed to equine welfare during the accelerated and expanded 2019 EWSP. This was broken down into the following key areas:

  • 30% - Post-Racing Programs, Safety Net & Visibility
  • 30% - Veterinary & Equine Welfare Operational Delivery
  • 25% - Risk Reduced Racing
  • 15% - Industry Reputation & Education

Funding will again be directed to these key areas in the 2023-27 EWSP.

Key outcomes from the 2019 EWSP include:

  • Forming RV’s dedicated equine welfare taskforce of seven members.
  • Establishing an Equine Welfare Advisory Council – featuring four independent equine welfare, veterinary and human behaviour change experts.
  • Launching the RESET Program to help retired racehorses that have struggled to transition to a second career.
  • Growing RV’s partnerships to open up new opportunities for retired racehorses.
  • Providing year-round support to RV’s network of 50 Acknowledged Retrainers who collectively retrain over 500 retired racehorses each year. Programs include financial support to improve the quality of retraining and COVID-19 pandemic financial payments for those who had to retain retired racehorses longer than anticipated.
  • Developing grant programs for Victorian equine businesses to increase the number of retired thoroughbreds in their operations, as well as a grant for RV Acknowledged Retrainers to expand their operations to take on more horses.
  • Launching the Off The Track Community to improve the visibility of retired racehorses. The platform has close to 5,000 users who have claimed more than 3,000 thoroughbreds and registered as an emergency contact for over 1,100 retired thoroughbreds.
  • Increasing the number of welfare checks conducted on thoroughbreds – 201 welfare visits involving checks on over 2,350 current and retired thoroughbreds were conducted in the past three years, as well as 39 joint welfare inspections with RSPCA Victoria.
  • Launching the Onsite Humane Euthanasia Program in April 2021 for thoroughbreds where the decision to euthanise is deemed the best welfare outcome. Supporting owners and trainers to euthanise these horses humanely onsite rather than have the horse transported live to a knackery for euthanasia.
  • Partnering with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Government to deliver the $11.5 million Equine Limb Injury Prevention Program that has resulted in world-leading research outcomes and enabled the purchase of two standing CT scanners and a PET scanner to improve equine welfare outcomes.
  • Launching the Diagnostic Imaging Subsidy Program in July 2021 for Victorian thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers to access a Medicare style 50% subsidy. Since launching more than 200 horses have accessed the subsidy.
  • Providing equine-related support to the thoroughbred industry during the 2020 bushfires and recent flooding events.
  • Providing year round education – including an online learning module for all industry participants, which will be updated in 2023 to align with the new EWSP.
  • Here for the Horses awareness campaign – including the development of a feature length documentary to highlight the importance of equine welfare.

Key objectives over the next five years includes:

  • Establishing an industry Code of Practice for the care of a thoroughbred during racing.
  • Engaging with the breeding industry to implement standards and initiatives that ensure all thoroughbreds bred for racing have the best chance of achieving their racing purpose and do not become vulnerable horses.
  • An increased focus on behavioural welfare and positive human interactions.
  • Using findings from the Equine Limb Injury Prevention Program to help reduce training and racing injuries.
  • Commencing the use of a mandatory digital horse health record for thoroughbreds in training.
  • Working towards all retired racehorses having an emergency contact on the Off The Track Community.
  • Working towards 100% traceability of thoroughbreds from birth to retirement.
  • Increasing the number of thoroughbreds rehomed by RV Acknowledged Retrainers.
  • Increasing owner awareness of pathways available for retired racehorses.
  • Rolling out the Acknowledged Retirement Farms program.
  • Increasing the options for non-competitive retired racehorses.

Fundamental to the delivery of the 2023-27 EWSP will be industry engagement, with education and individual responsibility being key enablers within each focus area.

To view the 2023-27 Equine Welfare Strategic Plan, please click here.

Quotes attributable to Racing Victoria CEO Andrew Jones:

“Equine welfare is a top priority for the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry. Our participants work with horses because they love them and we look after horses for a living.

“RV’s 2023-27 Equine Welfare Strategic Plan builds on the $27 million accelerated and expanded 2019 plan.

“Our seven focus areas will ensure the best possible welfare for all Victorian thoroughbreds.

“This includes three continuing themes – life after racing, injury prevention and traceability – which are joined by four new priorities - physical welfare, behavioural welfare, vulnerable thoroughbreds and breeding welfare.

“We will also continue to lobby for national equine welfare standards, data sharing and traceability. We are confident this will occur in due course.

“Meantime the 2023-27 Equine Welfare Strategy Plan will help the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry continue to deliver world-class care for our horses.”