TRAINING & RACING

About

Once a thoroughbred comes into the care of a licensed Trainer or Pre-Trainer their location must be listed at all times on a Stable Return. Trainers are closely monitored by Principal Racing Authority (PRA) stewards at all times to ensure the highest standards of welfare are maintained. Issues such as racing 2-year olds, as well as the the use of tongue ties and whips have all been addressed by Racing Australia and strict guidelines are set out in the Australian Rules of Racing. 

Licensing & Location Monitoring

Trainers and Stablehands must be licensed under strict criteria as outlined by their relevant Principal Racing Authority (PRA) - this ensures those working directly with racehorses are fit to perform their duties in line with the Australian Rules of Racing and welfare guidelines.

  • The licensed trainer must keep up to date Stable Returns which disclose the location of the thoroughbred at all times. This includes the categories of;
    • Active (horse is actively in work at the registered stable of the trainer)
    • Active Non-Stable Training (the horse is in work at a location not registered to the trainer) 
    • Spelling (the horse is having a break between preparations)
  • Trainers who fail to keep updated stable return records may be penalised by the PRA Stewards. 
2-year old racing

There is no evidence that racing 2-year-old thoroughbreds is detrimental to their welfare in the short or long term.

In fact, an independent and peer reviewed study published in 2013 found that, the more starts a racehorse had as a 2-year-old, the longer its career in racing.  If the critics were correct, the reverse would be the case. An independent study concluded there were no apparent adverse effects for horses that began their racing careers at younger ages in Australia.

A peer reviewed and independent study examined the careers of 117,000 horses (including 66,000 2-year olds) that raced between 2000 and 2011 to investigate the age at first start and the length of careers of Australian Thoroughbreds.

 “The association of age at first start with career length in the Australian Thoroughbred race horse population.” Equine Veterinary Journal 2013

The study found:

  • Length of career was associated with age at first race start—the younger the age at first start, the longer the career.
  • The more starts a horse had as a 2-year old, the longer the career of the horse.
  • “No evidence was found to support the view that racing 2-year old Thoroughbreds in Australia increases the risk of retirement from racing.”
  • “Based on this study there were no apparent adverse effects for horses that began their racing careers at younger ages in Australia.”
  • “In Australia it appears that horses beginning their careers as 2-year olds are significantly more likely to be successful racehorses.”

While the study did not set out to show whether 2-year old racing is ‘beneficial’ to racehorse careers, one of the authors has noted the study does show that “2-year old racing is not detrimental to performance.”

Studies in New Zealand and on Standardbred racehorses in Australia have independently replicated these findings.

 

Below is an extract from Dr Meredith Flash regarding her research findings on 2-year-old racing:

Dr Meredith Flash is a horse vet and PhD student who conducted a Victorian thoroughbred crop epidemiology study. Her research disproves myths spread by animal rights groups surrounding 2-year-old racing and thoroughbred welfare.  

How many horses train and race at 2-years old?

We investigated the training and racing careers of all horses born in Victoria in 2005 and 2010. Of the 7662 horses born 73% (n= 5611) entered training and 63% (n= 4864) started in a least one race by the end of the 7-year-old season. Fifty percent (n= 2813) of horses that entered race training did so at 2-years-old. Only 22% (n= 1044) of all horses that started in a race started at 2-years-old.

 

What is the impact of 2-year-old training and racing on future athletic performance?

Horses that race at 2-years-old had the longest careers and most careers race starts on average, followed by horses that entered training at 2-years-old but raced in later years. When we looked a bit closer at horses that raced at 2-years-old, on average they only had 2 race starts in that first racing season which was significantly less that horses that started their racing careers at 3-years-old or older. Ninety five percent of horses that raced at 2-years-old had a race start as a 3-year-old.

 

What did the study conclude?

The findings from our study suggest that early appropriate training at 2-years-old is beneficial to the future race careers of these horses. Further research is needed to better define optimal training programs to protect against injury and maximise athletic performance.

WHIP RULES

The jockey's whip is utilised to assist horsemanship and ensures horse and rider safety through its role as a communication, corrective and encouragement aid. 

The Australian Rules of Racing provide strict guidelines surrounding the types of whips that are permitted and the way in which they are used. Approved whips are known as 'padded whips' and have ample shock absorbing cushioning in them to protect the thoroughbred at the point of contact. 

It is also important to remember that racing involves a jockey weighing approximately 55kg sitting atop of a 500kg thoroughbred travelling at around 65-70kph. Access to a whip as a controlling device is critical if a dangerous situation occurs and threatens the safety of the jockey or other race participants. 

Under the Australian Rules of Racing, and the current design of jockeys’ whips, there is very rarely, if ever, evidence of tissue reaction or ongoing discomfort to the recipient of the whip after racing.

The regulatory framework extends to:

  • Stewards strictly enforce the relevant Australian Rules of Racing which regulates the use of the whip; ensuring that it is used only to the degree that it is required. 
  • Post-race veterinary inspections of horses to monitor whether there is any significant inflammatory response to the use of the whip is present after racing.
  • Ongoing research into the design and effect of the whip and reviews of international practice.
  • Education and training of jockeys in correct use of the whip and riding technique.

DETAILS OF THE WHIP RULES OUTLINED THE AUSTRALIAN RULES OF RACING CAN BE SEEN HERE



AR 132 Limits on the use of a whip by a rider
(1) A rider may only carry in races, official trials, jump-outs, or trackwork a padded whip of a design and specification approved by Racing Australia (“approved whip”) which is in a satisfactory condition and has not been modified in any way.

(2) A person must not have in his or her possession:
   (a) a whip which is not an approved whip; or
   (b) an approved whip which has been modified in any way.

(3) The Stewards may confiscate any whip which:
   (a)is not an approved whip; or
   (b)is an approved whip which, in their opinion, is not in a satisfactory condition or has been modified in any way.

(4) If an apprentice jockey breaches subrule (1) or (2), the master and/or other person in charge of the apprentice jockey at the time of the breach may also be penalised unless that person satisfies the Stewards that he or she took all proper care to ensure the apprentice jockey complied with this rule.

(5) In a race, official trial, jump-out or trackwork, or elsewhere, a rider must not use his or her whip in an excessive, unnecessary or improper manner.

(6) Without limiting the generality of subrule (5), in a race, official trial or jump-out a rider must not use his or her whip:
   (a) forward of the rider’s horse’s shoulder or in the vicinity of its head;
   (b) using an action that raises the rider’s arm above shoulder height;
   (c) when the rider’s horse is out of contention;
   (d) when the rider’s horse is showing no response;
   (e) after passing the winning post;
   (f) causing injury to the rider’s horse;
   (g) when the rider’s horse is clearly winning;
   (h) when the rider’s horse has no reasonable prospect of improving or losing its position;
   (i) in a manner where the seam of the flap is the point of contact with the horse, unless the rider satisfies the Stewards that that was neither deliberate nor reckless.

(7) Subject to the other requirements in this rule:
(a) prior to the 100 metre mark in a race, official trial or jump-out:
   (i) the whip must not be used in consecutive strides;
   (ii) the whip must not be used on more than 5 occasions except where there have only been minor infractions and the totality of the whip use over the whole       race is less than permitted under subrules (7)(a) and (b) and also having regard to the circumstances of the race, including distance and context of the race           (such as a staying race or a rider endeavouring to encourage the rider’s horse to improve);
   (iii) the rider may at the rider’s discretion use the whip with a slapping motion down the shoulder, with the whip hand remaining on the reins;
(b) in the final 100 metres of a race, official trial or jump-out, a rider may use the whip at the rider’s discretion.

(8) A trainer, owner or their authorised agent must not give instructions to a rider regarding the use of the whip which, if carried out, might result in a breach of this rule.

(9) A person must not offer any inducements to a rider to use the whip in a way that, if carried out, might result in a breach of this rule.

(10) An owner or that owner’s authorised agent, trainer, rider or a Steward may lodge a protest against the placing of a horse where a rider breaches subrules (5) or (7) during a race.

(11) Notwithstanding the provisions of subrules 7(a) and (b), a PRA that has charge of the conduct of jumps racing may provide separately, at its own discretion, for the regulation of the use of the whip in jumping events under its own Local Rules. If that is done, any provision of that kind will not be limited by subrules 7(a) and (b).
Tongue ties

Tongue ties are used to improve the breathing of thoroughbred racehorses that might be affected by Dorsal Displacement of the Soft Palate (DDSP) and to prevent horses getting their tongues over the bit.

DDSP involves the soft palate moving into an abnormal position above the epiglottis, causing a narrowing of the airway.  It can cause coughing, choking and dramatic asphyxia; in fact if any of the aforementioned happen to occur during a race it poses a significant safety risk to the jockey and other participants in the event. It is unknown why DDSP occurs in some horses and not others. The use of tongue ties is approved and regulated and, as with all aspects of racing, vets and stewards ensure rules are followed and the welfare of the horse monitored.

 

further welfare measures throughout racing
  • Racing Australia and its associated Principal Racing Authorities (PRAs) aim to uphold the highest standards of welfare and integrity throughout the training and racing process.
  • The most stringent measures are associated with the training methods used to prepare a racehorse for a race. 
  • Training methods are closely monitored by the stewards in each state or territory to ensure no unethical practices are being used. Stewards oversee trackwork and conduct regular stable inspections throughout Australia. 
  • On race day horses are required to be on course at a specified time prior to the race start so they can be identified and monitored by stewards.
  • Random swabs are taken from horses prior to the race and all winners have a sample taken which is sent off for testing to Racing Analytical Services. 
  • Further details outlining prohibited substances and training methods can be found under the Australian Rules of Racing.
  • Significant penalties apply for those found guilty of misconduct. 
  • Veterinary examinations are undertaken for any racehorse showing signs of disease, lameness or other ailments to determine its suitability to race.
  • Any surgical procedure which compromises the welfare or safety of any horse or rider will mean the horse is not permitted to race.
  • Horses with severe of recurrent clinical conditions could be temporarily or permanently excluded from racing.

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