GIVING RACEHORSES A NEW LIFE…
AND GIVING RACING A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Please click here to read JDG version, below is the English translation of the report.
On Friday 4th December, on the eve of the Arqana Breeding Stock Sale, Lisa-Jane Graffard (Godolphin) and Nemone Routh (Aga Khan Studs) organised a presentation on a project called “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES – élargir le champ d’action et améliorer l’image du monde hippique”, meaning, “Beyond the Tracks – widening the scope and improving the image of the equestrian world.”
The goal was to reflect on the second life of racehorses, beyond the racecourse. “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” addresses the question of racehorses in retirement, but is not confined only to this. The initiative takes a more holistic approach, looking at the whole picture of the animal’s welfare. It will be a key issue in 2016 and in the years to come. The question of animal welfare will be subject to regulation:, European and national strategies are currently being implemented. However, if the actors directly concerned are not actively involved in the movement, there remains the risk of abuse of the system and embarrassment to the sport.
“AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is a proactive movement at the centre of the action, with the racing professionals as masters and responsible for the future of their main concern, the racehorse. This project presents an opportunity, showing that racehorses are well treated and respected, which will only be beneficial for the image of racing. The starting point here, in France, is to fight against a very common prejudice in our society: “all racehorses finish in slaughterhouses”.
By Anne-Louise Echevin and Willy Flambard, journalists at Jour de Galop
A NEW AND PERSONAL INITIATIVE
For over a year Lisa-Jane Graffard and Nemone Routh have been working on the concept of “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES”. They spoke together, travelled, listened, learnt and met different actors on the international stage who explained how they retrained racehorses in countries all over the world. They both work for two of Europe’s biggest owners: Godolphin and the Aga Khan Studs. However their initiative is strictly personal. Lisa-Jane explained: “Along with Nemone, we are both passionate about this issue. We talked about it a lot, we looked at what was being done in France and abroad. We got into it without being pushed by our managers but I also represent Godolphin. I have the support of Diana Cooper who worked for a long time in France in the same position I now hold. She is now in charge of the Sheikh Mohammed’s charitable projects and has guided me a lot on this project.”
CREATE A MOVEMENT ON THE SUBJECT OF AFTERCARE
“AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is not the first initiative in France that shows interest in the issue of retraining of racehorses: Network Galop, Écurie Seconde Chance and the Ligue Française de la Protection du Cheval (LFPC) all spring to mind… But “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is another idea that does not seek to replace initiatives already in place. As explained by Lisa-Jane and Nemone at the end of their presentation in Deauville: “We think that it now is the time to put in place an organization directed and financed by the racing industry in France, to ensure the promotion of Thoroughbreds as athletes for other markets.
- A transparent and non-political organization which would work in the best possible interest of the racing industry.
- Create a structure that would establish a sustainable funding model for the promotion of both the Thoroughbred and highlight the already significant work being done by retraining organisations in France.” Lisa-Jane and Nemone met a wide variety of people involved in the retraining of racehorses such as Elizabeth Doumen and Jennifer Twomey (Network Galop), Sylvain and Amélie Martin (Écurie Seconde Chance), Anne Riboulet and Myriam Bollack-Badel for the LFPC and many others… Most of the above were present in Deauville and were able to talk about their work, like Lisa-Jane told us: “In Deauville, the aim was to gather everybody in the same room and work together. Édouard de Rothschild, subsequently elected President of France Galop, was also there. He knows the world of equestrian sports very well and he can help us create links with other disciplines.” The ideas and the good-will are there, “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is willing to promote them, connecting all the different actors involved and calling the whole thoroughbred industry to task. Strength in unity will be a key element for the future of racing. Nemone explained to us: “What has not been done yet is a very structured approach to the subject by the racing industry. I think we need a structure that promotes the retraining of racehorses and communicates on what they become.”
CREATE A STEERING COMMITTEE IN 2016 TO DEFINE THE BEST APPROACH
The idea of “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is to change mentalities around the issue of aftercare, something that should not be seen as a problem anymore but as an opportunity. Beyond the question of the horse’s welfare, post-racing, there remains the subject of his wellbeing throughout the whole life cycle, from his birth to his death.
“AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is a new and budding initiative, which will grow and develop. Anyone interested by the subject is invited to participate and put forward their ideas and opinions. In 2016, a steering committee will be created to define the best practices, as Nemone told us: “Now that we have put the project out there, we decided to create a steering committee of experts and representative of the French turf. It will have to come up with ideas. Our first meeting should take place in January during the Route des Étalons weekend. In addition to Lisa-Jane and I, there will be Olivier Delloye from Arqana, Henri Bozo from the Haras des Monceaux, the bloodstock agent Bertrand Le Metayer, the trainer Nicolas Clément, Elizabeth Doumen or Jennifer Twomey for Network Galop, a representative of the Ecurie Seconde Chance. After that we will have to approach France Galop and integrate them into the project.”
The key words of “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” are: transparent and irreproachable. No opportunities should be given to allow criticism and attacks from the more strident animal welfare associations or from European MPs who can impose dangerous regulations on the racing industry. By taking charge of aftercare, the racing industry can maintain control of its future. Nemone insists: “What we will suggest will have to be irreproachable in its functioning and transparency. When it involves funds, it has to be very professional and serious. And I repeat, it will have to be transparent and exacting in its standards. What has been done in other countries should inspire us.”
A LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING OVERSEAS
The actors of the French racing industry should not see aftercard as financially penalising. If everybody gives a little it is possible to create something grand and good, without imposing a heavy financial burden on anyone. Giving will reward us. For the moment, “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” has not established a structure for funding. It will be a mission for the piloting committee in 2016, who examine differenct structures worldwide and from which we can draw inspiration. Nemone Routh adds: “We will have to think about it, make suggestions and obviously approach the financing side of it. In the current economic climate it is important the funding as light as possible. What is interesting is that we can inspire ourselves from the existing structures in the world. A lot of experience has already been gained by existring structures overseas. In Great-Britain, there is a network which allows former racehorse owners to meet up, participate in events together and answer any questions they have about their horse. It is financed by small, incremental deductions such as race entries, when each entrie incurs a £1 charge which goes towards the network.”
ELIZABETH DOUMEN: “WE ARE STILL IN FRONT OF THE WAVE”
Co-founder of Network Galop four years ago with Jennifer Twomey, Elizabeth Doumen knows the subject of retraining of racehorses very well. As a breeder, owner and trainer’s wife, she is confronted by the issue nearly every day. Thanks to the set of connections built up through Network Galop, she is also one of the most experienced observers of the French system and its current weaknesses. This is why we’ve asked her to speak to us.
Jour de Galop. – Why did you launch, several years ago, the Network Galop initiative in order for the racing actors to take part in the retraining of racehorses?
Elizabeth Doumen. – First of all, I would like to say that it is a real issue. Something that is important and that is not only reserved for people who like horses, as soppy as it can seem. It is a real issue that we have to tackle before it tackles us. Especially in France, because in other countries they have understood the importance of the issue. If you have people against our industry, it can be very harmful. We can’t be faced with the fait accompli.
What characterizes France, compared to what is done abroad?
In Great Britain, there is the ROR (Retraining of Racehorses) which exists since 2000 [see its presentation]. In Australia they are very advanced as well, as is the United States of America. In France, with Network Galop, we identified a lot of people, who work with racehorses and retrained them of their own will. There are a lot of thoroughbreds for example in the show jumping discipline and other equestrian sports. We have made statistics and found a lot of participants. Now, in order to go further than Network Galop we have to give it a better structure and put more means on the table to check and even control what some retraining actors really do with Thoroughbreds, for example.
How do you see the role of France Galop in such an action?
France Galop should not be involved right away. Look at Great Britain, Weatherbys got implicated after the system was established by the racing industry. You need an organization that spearheads the system, different to France Galop but with the agreement of the parent organisation. The protocol signed in 2007 by France Galop with the (LFPC) is not well followed, for example. The owners who give money do not know exactly where their money goes. It is too random for the moment in this kind of system. We need our actions to be better structured.
Does the “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” initiative seduce you?
Completely. In 2016, we should see changes. With the power of Godolphin and the support of His Highness the Aga Khan, with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (FIAH) chaired by Louis Romanet, everything is in favour of a fast development of the project. I am confident because with Network Galop, we were in front of the wave and now, there is like a general awareness among the horse industry to work on issues such as welfare and retraining. We will able to surf on this wave without being knocked down. I am very happy that the big racing actors are tackling the matter. It is a very broad subject which will require working on all fronts. The horse meat sector, for example, will also have to be integrated in our works. It exists and is necessary. But what is also needed is the monitoring of the horses to slaughter. How they are treated, how they are transported, etc. All conditions have to be controlled and involve real moral and respect requirements.
ACT AND NOT REACT
The question of the retraining of racehorses is one of the major angles around the welfare of the horse, which takes more and more importance in today’s society. An initiative like “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” is essential to attract the public…
AN INITIATIVE THAT WILL HELP REVIVE RACING
We have discussed the image of racing among the general public in previous editions. Simply put there are three categories of people: those who like racing and horses, those who are not interested in races and do not care about horses, and a third category made up of people who love horses and carry out another equestrian discipline or, they love the animal but have no direct contact with equestrianism of any kind: but they hate racing, never attend a racemeeting and have certainly never visited a racehorse training stable. Prolific on the social networks, they share their views on our sport, which are that horses are exploited only for the money and a big majority of them end up in slaughterhouses when they are no longer useful or earning money.
We allow ourselves to be indifferent to these opinions, shrug our shoulders and say that these people do not know anything and move on.
However, the reality is more like this: in a modern hyper-connected world, where information and misinformation travel at high-speed, it is impossible to remain passive in the face of such claims, if so we run the risk of irreparable damage to the racing industry in both the short and long term. The general public tends to be attracted to negative press, which is often more mediatised than positive press. You can compare it to the French Railways (SNCF): we always talk about trains that are late, but never the ones that are on time. So imagine the result if the racing institutions remain silent, or do not benefit from an important and co-ordinated initiative to talk about all the positive things put in place or already in existence for the benefit of the horse’s welfare?
Lisa-Jane Graffard explains: “The promotion of horse welfare is a first step and we have to reach out to the other disciplines. Many people, young girls being the majority, like horses. Why don’t we see them at the races? Why do they often have a negative image of our sport and the lives of our horses? If they came to Chantilly, they would see the conditions in which these horses live and see that they are treated like kings! We have to do our best to show the truth.”
Nemone Routh also insists on this point: “What is sure is that the image of racing is getting worse. The employees in the racing industry love their horses. It is our job to seize the initiative before someone else does it for us. We have to put something in place for the aftercare of racehorses and promote it. It will improve the image of our sport within society at large. It will help us reach out to the other disciplines such as equestrian sports. Prove that racehorses can do beautiful things after their career and live a second life in other disciplines, this will create new positive links with the other equestrian sectors and obviously with the general public.”
NOT FINDING OURSELVES LIKE IN THE UNITED STATES, ENGLAND OR AUSTRALIA
Abroad, several initiatives were put in place concerning the retraining of racehorses: like in the United States, Australia and Great Britain… In these countries, associations for the protection of animals seized the matter and the questions around the welfare of racehorses, creating scandals forcing the racing authorities to react. Let’s not put all these animal welfare associations in the same basket: some of them are open to discussion and can be allies. Others are more uncompromising and, often, very present in the media. The most recent example in the United States is the case of “Peta/Asmussen” but we can also think about the 2002 scandal around Ferdinand, winner of the Kentucky Derby (Gr1) in 1986, exported to Japan as a stallion, and when his career failed ending up at slaughter. There was also Eight Belles, euthanized in 2008 after a second place in the Kentucky Derby (Gr1), breaking both front legs in front of the crowded stands… A tragedy only a year after the death of Barbaro.
In England, there was scandal in 1998 when the public television broadcast a documentary called: They shoot racehorses, don’t they? It talked about the racehorses sent to slaughterhouses including one formerly owned by Her Majesty the Queen. Which forced the British institution to do something. The associations such as Peta also hold particularly outspoken protests around Liverpool’s Grand National, with harsh articles entitled: Five reasons to boycott the Grand National or The Grand National: eight things you did not know about horseracing. In this last article, there is a paragraph titled: Former racehorses “retire” in slaughterhouses, claiming that 1,000 racehorses are killed each year in England but also that a lot are exported to Europe for a tragic end to their lives. And that’s before we go into the stereotypes that exists of the owner who mistakes the love of horses with the love of money, the horses whipped and beaten right to the wire…
In Australia, the Melbourne Cup (Gr1) might be the race that stops a nation, it is also a race hated by animal rights organisations. The Australian racing authorities had to invest in a huge media campaign to counter the views of these groups. And the truth is that four horses died in recent years, including Verema or the superstar Red Cadeaux. In 2014, an animal welfare association displayed posters of a dead horse with the motto: “Is the party really worth it?” In 2015, activists chained themselves to the rail, a bit like the suffragists, to protest against the race.
ACTING, NOT REACTING
In France, we are “lucky” to have less virulent animal welfare associations than in the aforementioned racing nations. However, they can really influence the media and now the legislation of our sport: The Assemblée Nationale recently adopted a code to define animals as a “living, sentient being”. But who did not know that already? Concerning horses, some associations call them pets, a doctrine which could seriously impact on racing. We should neither underestimate the development of an international trend called vegan – against the exploitation and use of animals – represented in France by the very activist association L214, close to the American Peta: undercover filming, shocking pictures, exaggerated generalizations and a completely black and white view of the situation.
Up until now, French racing world has rarely been affected by scandal. Last year, a documentary on Canal+ “Scandale à l’hippodrome” (Scandal On The Racecourse) painted racing in a very caricatured way and without any serious investigation. Its only aim was to describe the racing industry as being a suspicious underworld. It didn’t stop them from going to the races to wheel out old stereotypes to reinforce public opinion of the racing world. However, since France has been relatively untouched by scandal, compared to other countries, it is a fabulous opportunity for us. It allows us, not like in England, the United States or in Australia to not only react but act. We cannot wait for a scandal that will spoil our image to “correct the situation” when we are capable of leading ourselves in the right direction, without starting with a heavy handicap…
And it could go a long way. Taking a strong stance on aftercare and highlighting successful second careers could avoid a more negative discourse and allow our sport to continue. Lisa-Jane Graffard and Nemone Routh are keenly aware of that, they explained: “The racing industry has to take this seriously. When you look at the way society is moving and changing the racing industry is going to have to take responsibility for horses. Moreover, it will help to transform the general public’s view of racing into a very positive one.”
PAUL-MARIE GADOT: “FRANCE GALOP HAS BEEN WORKING FOR A LONGTIME ON THE WELFARE OF HORSES”
Paul-Marie Gadot is the head of the Department “Livrets et Contrôles” of France Galop
Jour de Galop. – Has aftercare been a key subject at France Galop?
Paul-Marie Gadot. – Yes. We have been working on this subject for a while. It ended up by the signature of a partnership with the Ligue Française pour la Protection du Cheval (LFPC) in 2007 and then more recently with the Écurie Seconde Chance. It is a complicated topic. Some horses leave racing in a satisfying way: either by returning to stud or by starting a second life in another discipline or as a leisure horse. Horses do not automatically leave sadly. There is hope for horses after racing.
Is France Galop able to know what these horses become or what they do after their racing career?
It is very complicated to collect information. Between the statement confirming they are out of training and all the different situations that exist afterwards, we are incapable of drawing a graphic on the retraining of racehorses. The LFPC, for example, is not a structure specialised in the retraining of horses but acts for their protection. The association takes care of the most complicated cases and then needs to find solutions for the ones it already has. Some owners accept to give France Galop credit within the partnership we have with the LFCP, but it is important to know that France Galop finances, at its own costs, this retraining. And I repeat, it exists since 2007.
Does France Galop have projects in terms of rehoming or more generally speaking of the horse’s welfare?
We participate with other bodies in the horse industry, like LeTrot, in an equine welfare committee. It is a completely transversal work which develops itself around a very strong scientific base, thanks to the INRA, IFCE and experts coming from the ANSES for example (French National Agency for the sanitary security of food, environment and work), who have already started this work on cattle and pigs. This work can also help the horse industry bodies to progress towards a better welfare environment.
Have you heard about, and if so, what do you think about the initiative “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES”?
I think it is very good and is part of several processes. The more people involved working together, the better it will be. But we should not think France Galop is waiting for these kind of initiatives to do something. It has been a while since France Galop’s officials started acting over the animal’s welfare. When they see, in training or on racecourses, horses in a critical condition, investigations are carried out. Some trainers have lost their license for these reasons. Obviously we do not communicate on it…
INSPIRATION FROM FROM FOREIGN COUNTRIES… ADAPTING IT TO FRANCE
Abroad there are several associations and initiatives interested in the retraining of racehorses. Lisa-Jane Graffard and Nemone Routh have analysed and studied these cases. However, the idea is not to copy and paste the existing models across the world to the French one. It is more about inspiring ourselves from them and finding the most appropriate solutions for France. It will be one of the first missions of the directing committee of “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES”.
Retraining of Racehorses in England
Following the scandal of They shoot racehorses, don’t they?, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) launched a big study on the future of retired racehorses and reacted by creating Retraining of Racehorses (RoR). This charity organisation is not attached to the BHA, it supports and approves it, but does not manage it. Great Britain is very interesting from French point of view because the number of foals born annually is quite similar to ours. There are more horses who run, but for less prize-money. RoR was launched thanks to the funds of Paul Mellon and Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum after the selling of the Racing Post. The RoR is financed by the British racing industry, via the repayment of small amounts of money. Adding up the sums, we reach a total of £700,000 per year. The contributors are: the racecourses, the jockeys, the trainers, the Levy Board…
The RoR has retraining centres but the goal is to create a retraining program and opportunities for thoroughbreds. For example, there are competitions reserved for retired thoroughbreds, which promotese the adaptability of thoroughbreds to other disciplines. There are also parades organized on racecourses during racing days, where retrained horses are presented to the public. Big champions (Kauto Star, Denman, Big Buck’s, Neptune Collonges…) as well as smaller level horses can be seen and people like seeing horses they once cheered on the track.
The United-States, a dynamic model for the retraining of racehorses
“There are a lot of things happening in the United-States, explains Lisa-Jane Graffard. There is such a big culture of giving and American races have a problem: they have a very bad image with the permissive policies on medication and more recently due to the Peta/Asmussen scandal.” In the United-States, lobbies and associations are very powerful, which is not the case in France. So it would be very difficult to implement the same actions in France but it does not stop us from inspiring ourselves from theirs. Among the different associations, there are: New Vocations, Makers Mark, Old Friends, The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Thoroughbred Charities of America, The Retired Racehorse Project…
The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance was created in 2012. Lisa-Jane told us about it: “It is the first association we looked at. It was created via funds that came from the Breeders’ Cup, from Keeneland, from the Jockey Club. The main sales agencies get 50 cents back for each thousand dollar on a sale from the consigner and the purchaser also gives 50 cents. Which means 1,50 dollars per thousand dollars sold. Studs also give 25% of a stallion’s fee. When breeders register births, they give 25 dollars per foal, recovered by the American Jockey Club… There are also agreements with some trainers, racecourses, etc. As a total, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has given 3,4 million dollars to their centres since 2012.”
Indeed, the money is given to retraining centres previously chosen and accredited. Transparency is a key word with a list of horses in each centre. The Thoroughbred Alliance Care never sells any horses to slaughterhouses, but if retraining a horse is not possible, then it promises the best possible retirement life.
The Retired Racehorse Project is another interesting project, including the Thoroughbred Makeover. A true market developed itself for this event, held in the Kentucky Horse Park at the end of October 2015, a national symposium was held at the same time. The Thoroughbred Makeover allows retired thoroughbred racehorses to compete in show jumping and three-day event competitions. “The level is not very high, most of the horses are beginners: they must have still been in training at the beginning of January 2015, but it shows their adaptability. There are a lot of new things emerging around this. It concerns young and sound horses, who can do this kind of activity. It can encourage owners to retire their horses earlier in order to benefit from a new market.”
Among the horses entered in this 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover was: Nutello, third in the 2013 Prix du Jockey Club (Gr1)! He finished second in the Thoroughbred Makeover three-day event competition.
AUSTRALIA, COMMUNICATION WAR WITH THE ASSOCIATIONS
In Australia, the challenge is huge. With a high foaling rate, a large and powerful racing industry… and pro-animal rights groups often anti-racing. Racing Australia reacted upon the different scandals forcing each region of the country to name a Welfare Officer and to implement the creation of a retraining program. Racing Victoria was able to publish its numbers: seven horses out of ten are retrained to be leisure horses and only two out of ten are retired to the breeding sector. Among the 10% left, less than 1% end up in slaughterhouses. It is important to point this out in order to put an end to stories about the fact that the majority of racehorses retired from racing are slaughtered!
One example is Racing Victoria which launched Off the Track. It gives 200,000 dollars for advertising campaigns, a strong social media presence and the certification of around thirty racehorse retraining stables… Off the Track concerns 12,000 retired horses, put forward in different competitions such as dressage, show jumping, even at a small level. “I think that a horse who went through Off the Track is actually to his way to the Olympic Games in Rio” said Lisa-Jane Graffard. A great advertisement.
HELPING HORSES… AND COMMUNICATING ABOUT IT
Helping horses to find a new life is very good. But the main thing is to communicate about it. An internet presence is essential and the different associations and initiatives put in place have created websites in which retrained horse can be seen in action via promotional videos. Here are some websites:
Retraining of Racehorse (RoR) – Great-Britain: www.ror.org.uk
Off the Track – Australia: https://rv.racing.com/the-horse/off-the-track
The Thoroughbred Alliance Aftercare – United-States: http://www.thoroughbredaftercare.org/
The Retired Racehorse Project & Thoroughbred Makeover – United-States: http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/
Godolphin Rehoming : http://www.godolphinrehoming.co.uk/
New Vocations – United-States: http://www.horseadoption.com/
Old Friends Kentucky – United-States: http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/
I LOVE MY RACEHORSE
During the Thoroughbred Makeover 2013, organized by Pimlico, this promotional movie was made, showing retrained racehorses in action in various disciplines and showing their adaptability. The video ends with their riders, all saying: “I love my racehorse!”
For the video, click here: https://youtu.be/VE8AmHvl8UU
LOUIS ROMANET: “THE ANIMAL’S WALFARE IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TOPIC FOR THE IMAGE OF RACING AND EQUESTRIAN SPORTS”
Louis Romanet is the President of the International Federation for Racing Authorities (IFHA).
Jour de Galop. – Will the question of the retraining of racehorses and horse welfare be an important topic in the IFHA in the next few years?
Louis Romanet. – This question comes up a lot in international conferences, through the question of aftercare, the anti-doping controls, the movement of horses… The IFHA has decided carry out a survey among our member countries over the question of aftercare. Some do a lot. Such is the case of the United-States, who have a real charity culture and powerful lobbies. Some do not do much, nearly nothing and most of the time because of the lack of means. When we have the results of the survey we will talk about it and see what measures we can take.
Is the IFHA in contact with the equestrian world concerning animal welfare?We are going to have a discussion about it thanks to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) with whom we are part of an International Confederation of Equine Sports. I signed the creation of it in 2013 with Pincess Haya, who was the president of the FEI. The FEI is now presided by Ingmar de Vos and the animal welfare question is something he is very attached to.
It is important to work in harmony on this welfare question also with topics such as movement, sanitary issues… We have to be coordinated to be stronger. All our work leads us to talk about the horse’s welfare, which is extremely important for the image of racing and equestrian sports. We have to highlight a worldwide policy over the question of the horse’s life from its breeding to the end of its career but also over a topics such as whip use, its modifications so that the horse does not suffer… It is a very big subject and we have to know what preoccupies the different countries, summarize and act. We also need to communicate and work with animal welfare associations: a number of them are ready to discuss and be proactive.
What do you think of “AU-DELÀ DES PISTES” ?
I met with Lisa-Jane Graffard and Nemone Routh and we talked a lot. I am pleased to see this initiative instigated by two representatives of two of the biggest European owners. Maria Niarchos is also interested in the subject and it is very good to see big owners being aware of the rehoming and retraining of horses. The IFHA will encourage them but we first of all need an analysis on an international level and know everybody’s capacities on the question.
MARIE CAZENAVE-PÉRÉ: “IT IS ALL THE HORSE WORLD THAT IS INVOLVED IN THE WELFARE OF HORSES”
A big project on equine welfare was launched at the beginning of 2015 by the Fédération Nationale du Cheval (FNC), during its general assembly. According to Marie Cazenave-Péré, in charge of animating this project “in seeing how broad this subject is, the idea came of creating a directing committee. It is a real collective project which should allow all the horse world to get involved in horse welfare. For the moment, we have mostly put in place the organization which will allow us to be the most efficient as possible.” The FNC has the role of a coordinator, with its President, Marianne Dutoit. The direction committee gathers the FNC, France Galop, LeTrot, the FFE (Fédération Française d’Equitation), the GHN (Groupement Hippique National) and the AVEF (Association Vétérinaire Equine Française). A technical committee will gather all the research and practices in the sector of horse welfare. This technical committee is made of the directing committee plus the IFCE (Institut Français du Cheval et de l’Equitation), the APCA (Assemblée Permanente des Chambres d’Agriculture), the Institut de l’Elevage. Scientific experts from the INRA (Institut Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique) or from the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) will also be auditioned.
This project will work towards a chart defining and communicating the best practices in France. It will also integrate security objectives but also performance and communication objectives. This will obviously work towards a common goal, improving the welfare of horses. Marie Cazenave-Péré added: “And all this in a logic centered on the horse itself: what is important is the result. We will search for the best possible welfare for the horse according to its environment. We base ourselves on well-known international works and on the concept of the “five freedoms” which allow us to define the notion of welfare. This concept is for example described in the Welfare Quality project, a research program financed by the European Union which enumerates twelve criteria that help define the notion of welfare.”
“The chart’s goal is to share a notion of welfare and then communicate around the same concept”, according to Marie Cazenave-Péré.
2016: A DECISIVE YEAR
The idea is to answer society’s expectations in terms of animal welfare and be ahead of eventual upcoming regulations. The timing is important because “At the moment, the national strategy concerning animal welfare, in a broader sense, is being defined in the Ministry [of Agriculture, ndlr]. It is important to know that there is also a European context with a new strategy of the Union on the matter. There was a first programme that ended in 2014/2015. A new programme is going to open very quickly.”
Surely 2016 will be a decisive year on the subject of animal welfare and especially that of horses.