“I got into this game for the love of horses, and I want to make sure that every horse has a future after racing.”
Attending this week’s Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale, Kitchwin Hills principal, Mick Malone, has echoed the beliefs of all industry professionals following the announcement that an independent working group has been established to develop a national horse welfare regime.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia has been joined by the Australian Trainers’ Association and the Australian Jockeys’ Association in forming the working group – which is to be chaired by former Victorian premier and veterinary surgeon, Dr Dennis Napthine – but since the announcement, the initiative has received resounding support from all major industry bodies from every state in Australia.
The working group will review the current welfare landscape in the Australian thoroughbred industry, look to world’s best practice, consult with participants in the industry, and draw upon the learnings from other animal industries.
The focus will be on horses exiting the thoroughbred industry, whether as retired racehorses or unraced animals, through to end-of-life management.
The panelists are Dr Bidda Jones, Chief Science and Strategy Officer for RSPCA Australia, Dr Ken Jacobs, a director of the Australian Veterinary Association, and Jack Lake, a senior advisor on agriculture in the Hawke, Keating and Rudd governments.
The membership of the IWG is deliberately drawn from outside the racing and breeding industries to ensure their independence and encourage them to explore policy options outside current industry thinking.
Harry Mitchell, who has spent a lifetime around horses and is co-principal of leading Hunter Valley nursery, Yarraman Park heartily welcomes the approach: It’s a great idea. We’ve got a lady from the RSPCA, we have an ex-veterinarian and ex-premier. They certainly look like a very good group of people to lead us forward so we all work together for the common goal.”
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia chief executive, Tom Reilly, is well aware of the challenges that confront the industry: “Welfare, rehoming, retraining and end-of-life for thoroughbreds are national issues that are of concern to all participants in the industry.
“We have to acknowledge that if we can improve outcomes in these areas, it is our responsibility to do so.
“Too often our industry is fragmented along state lines. This initiative will facilitate a national discussion with the aim of finding national solutions. Everybody who I have asked for support have been happy to give it and get behind this.”
Group One trainer, Tony McEvoy was quick to jump on board and will walk the walk in terms of support: “As a participant, we are all responsible … I’m investing in this initiative and I reach out to all participants that they should be doing the same, because it’s for the betterment of the animal going forward.”
The work of the panel will be funded by industry participants, with commitment of resources from breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, clubs and wagering operators and is tasked with producing a report outlining a practical policy framework for a national horse welfare regime. This will be the basis for a wider discussion with industry stakeholders and federal and state governments.
The IWG is expected to provide its recommendations later this year.
People outside the thoroughbred industry have a tendency to underestimate the passion for horses from those that live and breathe with them every day.
“I think that everyone in the industry is in the same boat. We are in the horse business because we love horses. It’s good to have the framework in place so that these issues are addressed,” summarises John Kelly, whose family has run NSW’s Newhaven Park for four generations.