Kim Bailey stresses that it is the responsibility of her fellow trainers and owners to ensure that older racehorses are properly cared for throughout their lives.
Bailey, who has trained the winners of all the top national hunting races in a career spanning more than 30 years, described the secret images of slaughterhouses broadcast by the BBC’s Panorama program as “gruesome” and “horrible”.
He also stressed that it is the responsibility of those who own and care for the horses during their racing years to do everything possible to provide them with a safe and comfortable home afterwards.
Monday night’s Panorama documentary aired scenes of horses about to be euthanized at a slaughterhouse in Swindon – reporting that many got there after grueling and inhumane transport from Ireland.
The British Horseracing Authority responded by calling urgent meetings to discuss the troubling issues with industry leaders, including the independently chaired Horse Welfare Board and their counterparts at Horse Racing Ireland.
Bailey said Sky Sports Racing: “You can keep paying back and adding more funds for as long as you want – but the end product is that it’s up to the trainers, I believe, to make sure the horses in their care find a home. thereafter where they can be cared for and cherished for the rest of their lives.
“I think this is something that coaches need to point out to owners that when they get involved in racing, they are as responsible as we are to make sure that these horses – when they leave the race – have a future.
The race is beset by financial wrangling and wrangling over prize money and struggles financially, but this is an area it cannot afford to overlook.
“You just can’t get involved in a horse and say ‘well, actually he’s stopped running now – I want to get rid of him’.
“They have to take responsibility for themselves. It is a double responsibility, from the point of view of the trainers and the owners, to make sure that we take care of where the horses go after the race.”
According to Bailey, the administrative infrastructure that allows proper tracking of the movement of former racehorses is also crucial.
“I think it’s incredibly important,” he said. “We regularly pass horses – I think we’ve moved around 20 this summer.
“We interview the people who ride the horse, [and] we get referrals from the people who have them.
“They have to stay in touch with me the entire time they have the horse. If at any point in that time they find that they can’t cope, for financial reasons or if they find that the horse doesn’t suit them, the horse has to come back here – and then we can try again. “
“A racing zone cannot afford to neglect”
Journalist Paul Hayward stressed the “narrow” focus of the Panorama program, but said it would be a mistake for the race to ignore the issues raised.
He said Sky Sports Racing: “I don’t think the races can afford to impose it on the Food Standards Agency, that would be a mistake. It’s not just a Food Standards Agency problem. It’s that old question about what happens to horses after they stop running and how are they euthanized, if that is the only option.
“The races have to be honest about how this system works and how the fundraising works.
“As a caveat, I would say this program has focused on one specific area of this industry. It was painful in many ways, but its focus was pretty narrow, especially a transit line between Irish Races and a British slaughterhouse, where the standards were pretty appalling. “
Regarding the current old racehorse relocation system, Hayward added, “There is some kind of structure and there are a lot of well-meaning people that make sure horses are treated properly when they stop racing, but when you do. look at the funding, it seems inadequate.
“If you are going to have a retirement system and a lifelong care system, which the Horse Welfare Board recommended in its March report of this year, it will take a lot more money to ensure that every horse has a decent path, either in another kind of life, or in some cases, unfortunately, an end of life.
“The race is beset by financial wrangling and wrangling over prize money and struggling financially, but this is an area it cannot afford to overlook.”
“Tracing should take place everywhere”
Irish sports journalist Daragh O Conchuir believes it is essential to know where a horse is moved after finishing its racing career and says no horse should have traveled from Ireland to the UK to be killed.
“If there comes a time when an Irish horse needs to be euthanized, it certainly shouldn’t come to England,” O Conchuir said. Sky Sports Racing.
“If you have a traceability database, like you do with cattle for example, then you know exactly where they’re going. It allows that sort of thing to happen.
“You have to know where they are and it should be happening everywhere.
“The technology is there and the majority of horses are very well looked after, but you want to get better and better. Take the lessons as they are and apply them down the line.
“Even at 12 years old horses are young and way ahead of them. Sport horses can continue to compete until the age of 20. The best of them have this desire to compete and they deserve this opportunity.
“[Rehoming] happens, it is funded, but of course it could get more. Something like this can be negative, but maybe it will inspire people to do a little more. “