The welfare of Australia’s thoroughbred racehorses will be bolstered by the introduction this week of new national regulations to capture enhanced information about their transition to a life after racing.

Effective from today, the Australian Racing Board (ARB) has introduced a new rule making it compulsory for owners to report the retirement of their racehorse within 30 days.

The managing owner of each racehorse is now responsible for advising the reason for their horse’s retirement and their plans for the horse beyond its racing career.

Owners will indicate, at no charge to them or their trainer, whether their racehorse was retired due to illness, injury, for breeding purposes or at their request and whether the horse will be re-homed as an equestrian or pleasure horse, enter an official retirement program or be sent to a livestock sale.

In addition to the new retirement of racehorse rule for owners, the rule requiring trainers to notify authorities of the death of a racehorse in their care has been strengthened. Trainers will also be asked to inform authorities of the cause of the death.

The changes will provide the industry with greater insight into the reasons why horses conclude their racing careers, as well as their activities post racing, thus supplying statistics which can be used to better direct education and welfare initiatives.

Racing Victoria (RV) Head of Equine Welfare and Veterinary Services, Dr Brian Stewart, has welcomed the establishment of what he described as “a significant welfare initiative for the industry”.

“These important enhancements to the Rules of Racing will provide access to information about why racehorses are retired as well as details about their life after racing — equipping the industry with knowledge which will help direct future welfare activities,” Dr Stewart said.

“The retirement of racehorse rule is something that Racing Victoria has actively campaigned for and we welcome the ARB’s decision to introduce it on a national level. The rule complements the range of initiatives we’re undertaking to manage the welfare of our equine athletes.

“By capturing enhanced information from owners and trainers we’ll be armed with accurate data around injuries and deaths, retirements and stable departures.

“It’s also information which can be fed back to trainers and owners and will be beneficial in assisting them to make informed decisions in the future.”

Dr Stewart said that most owners retire their horses responsibly, often within the broader equine sporting and pleasure markets, but that data could be improved.

He cited a 2013 University of Melbourne study which found that thoroughbreds with a connection to racing are the most commonly represented amongst Victoria’s 600,000 pleasure horses as an example of the positive efforts being made by owners to transition their horse to a life after racing.

“Misleading figures and statistics about the destination of retired racehorses are often quoted by animal welfare groups and collating this data will help to ensure the industry is represented truthfully,” Dr Stewart said.

“Ultimately, we are asking owners to take responsibility for providing information about the destination of their horse post racing so that we have accurate information on retired racehorses to better direct welfare programs.”

Under the newly introduced Australian Rule of Racing (AR) 64JA, the managing owner of each horse is required to notify the industry’s data provider, Racing Information Services Australia (RISA), on the retirement of their horse. The retirement of racehorse form can be found at the RISA website www.risa.com.au under the Registrar of Racehorses/Forms page.

Under the amended AR 64J, if a horse which has not been retired dies the registered trainer will be required to advise their relevant Principal Racing Authority and update the horse’s stable return via RISA’s online Stable Assist program.

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