Britain’s first ever thoroughbred census has been launched to help improve traceability of former racehorses after they retire from the sport. The census is being carried out by researchers at Hartpury University, and all owners of former racehorses are encouraged to take part, with it closing on 31 December, 2023. The census will help fill a gap in data on the lives of thoroughbreds once they go into private ownership.

The initiative is part of British Racing’s Horse Welfare Board’s five-year welfare strategy ‘A Life Well Lived’ and its commitment to improve traceability for all horses bred for racing. With improved data, British Racing and its aftercare charity, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), can better support owners with access to educational resources and routes to compete if desired, as well as continue to build informed and helpful communities.

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Improved data at this stage of a thoroughbred’s life can also help the Horse Welfare Board and RoR improve and adapt welfare initiatives and enable fast and effective contact in the event of an equine disease outbreak.

The census will request information on each horse’s equine identification document (passport) number, microchip number, age, current residence and their second career.

“Improving the traceability of thoroughbreds after they retire from racing is a fundamental part of the Horse Welfare Board’s five-year welfare strategy,” said Helena Flynn, Programme Director, Horse Welfare Board. “The launch of this census is a significant project to help increase the depth, quality, and volume of data about thoroughbreds at this important stage of their lives.

“Just as importantly, this campaign will help us talk about responsible ownership and the critical part every
thoroughbred owner plays in ensuring their equine identification document (passport) is up to date. We are
delighted to be working with Hartpury University on the census and hope that between us we can encourage as
many owners as possible to participate.”

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The census has been launched in partnership with Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), funded by the Racing Foundation, and is supported by World Horse Welfare and Weatherbys General Stud Book.

“We’re delighted to be part of this proactive initiative as Hartpury is committed to supporting the equine sector to improve the quality of life of the horses’ we all love,” added Jane Williams, Head of Research at Hartpury University. “The census will present an opportunity to understand more about the lifetime care of thoroughbreds, generate evidence to safeguard against future disease outbreaks, and showcase the huge benefits thoroughbreds bring to so many people.”

Roly Owers OBE, CEO of World Horse Welfare, said it was an “excellent initiative” along the road of improving the traceability for all thoroughbreds.

“Full traceability lasts a lifetime as a horse bred for racing will always be a racehorse in the eyes of the public, and they rightly hold the industry responsible for them throughout their lives,” he said. “There really is a collective responsibility to make this work towards the much needed goal of full traceability, both for the sake of the horses and the reputation of the industry.”

The 2023 Thoroughbred Census can be completed online here. Results will be reported during the first quarter of 2024. The team has received more than 2,000 completed surveys since the census was launched, with the aim to achieve more than 14,000 over the six months it is circulated. They are encouraging equestrians to share the census far and wide to help them achieve their goal.

Lead image of Winner Wonga Swinger, owned and ridden by Tori Cannon, competing in The Tattersalls RoR Amateur Ridden Show Series Championship at The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, 2022. © Copyright Hannah Cole Photography. All rights reserved.

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