The 1% - Thoroughbred Welfare Update


SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER

Welcome to the second edition of the 1% - Thoroughbred Welfare update. This Newsletter marks just over one year since the 1 September introduction of the 1% welfare levy on stakes money, so is a great opportunity to look back at progress in the Thoroughbred welfare space.  As previously mentioned, full transparency and breakdown will be provided on the spend of this levy.  This will be included in the 2022 NZTR Annual Report and also in the next quarterly newsletter.
 
In the meanwhile, please enjoy an update on our current activity in the Thoroughbred welfare space.
 
As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback you may have.
 

ACKNOWLEDGED RETRAINERS

The NZTR Acknowledged Retainer Network has now been operational for one year, and in that time the Retrainers have collectively rehomed nearly 250 Thoroughbreds. 
 
The second Acknowledged Retrainers clinic held in early August which provided an excellent opportunity for Acknowledged Retrainers to receive some one-on-one coaching, in addition to presentations from equine welfare professionals and workshop sessions which provided great feedback to NZTR.
 
  
NZTR Acknowledged Retrainers also continue to receive various financial supports via the 1% Welfare Levy on prize money.

The first year of the Acknowledged Retrainers network has highlighted the need for buy-in and support at an industry wide level for the network to succeed and continue offering quality service to the Thoroughbreds rehomed and people involved. An important aspect is that everyone who owns or trains a Thoroughbred has a responsibility for ensuring that that horse has an ‘exit strategy’ in place for when the time comes for it to leave the racing industry.

For horses who retire sound and in good health, the Trainer and owners’ responsibility can be as simple as continuing to provide financial support and care for the horse until such a time when a space at a NZTR Acknowledged Retrainer’s property (or another suitable rehoming opportunity) becomes available. Then, a horse’s connections should ensure that the horse is well shod, provide transport to that Acknowledged Retrainers property, and submit a SR24 Death or Retirement form for the horse to NZTR (this ‘zero fee’ form can be completed online via Portal or by sending the completed form by email to [email protected]). It is also crucial that any relevant medical or behavioral history is passed on to give the horse the greatest chance of success in its new career.

For other horses, the transition may not be so smooth, and a period of rehabilitation and prolonged care by racing connections may be required before a Thoroughbred is able to begin a new career. It is vitally important for trainers and owners to have open discussions around what retirement may look like for each horse and if being rehomed is genuinely the right option for every horse.

We are aware of and commend those Trainers or Syndicators who already have up-front agreements in which the owners commit to provide for the time and costs that may be entailed at the end of the horse’s racing career. NZTR encourages and is happy to assist in promoting the awareness of such industry ‘best practice’.

NZTR is also pleased to note industry recognition of the importance of Thoroughbred retraining as highlighted brilliantly by the recent pledge of Riverrock Farm to donate a portion of proceeds from their upcoming horse sales to their selected retrainers. It really cannot be overstated how much supporting our Acknowledged Retrainers is critical for us as an industry to ensure continued good welfare outcomes for our equine athletes.
 

HELPING HORSES FOUND IN A STATE OF NEGLECT

Through agreements with the SPCA and select equine rescue groups, NZTR provided financial and practical assistance to 31 Thoroughbreds found to be in a state of neglect in the 2021/2022 season.

Assistance can range from arranging foster care or assisting the costs of transport and veterinary treatment. Occasionally this may extend to handling and retraining to allow horses to be rehomed as a ridden horse which helps safeguard their future welfare. 

NZTR recognises the ongoing importance of providing this safety net to our horses and it continues to form an integral part of our commitment to a ‘life well lived’. We aim that over time, with good decisions and expertise for rehoming and with awareness education for owners of retired Thoroughbreds, that fewer Thoroughbreds will require such assistance, thereby enabling NZTR to redirect some of this expenditure to other more positive Thoroughbred welfare initiatives.
 

HORSE AMBULANCE

NZTR continues to utilise the 1% levy on stakes money to ensure that there is a horse ambulance on course at every Thoroughbred trial and race meeting. In the 2021-22 season horse ambulances attended 293 Thoroughbred race and trial dates and, on these days, was deployed in 32 incidents involving Thoroughbreds.

The horse ambulance is crucial in allowing a horse to be safely and comfortably transported to receive medical treatment in the event of an injury and is designed to minimise the risk of further injury or discomfort during the transfer process. Furthermore, the racing industry’s ongoing support for the Horse Ambulance demonstrates the sense of care and compassion felt towards our Thoroughbred athletes.

NZTR is proud to be associated with NZ Horse Ambulance Trust, which is unique in the world in the capability and range of services that it provides.
 
 

TRACEABILITY

3,804 Individual Retirement or Death notifications were submitted in the 2020/2021 season. This overstates the number of horses leaving the industry within one year, due to significant number of returns being completed retrospectively from previous years. However this shows significant progress to our objective of attaining accurate and timely traceability for each horse.
 
 
We once more thank those who already routinely and promptly submit their SR24 forms and remind all participants of their obligations under Rule 417 to do so within one month of the horse’s death or retirement. This is a requirement, and all Racing Managers or Trainers must provide and SR24 for a retiring Thoroughbred.


RESEARCH AND EDUCATION

Pilot Trial – Wearable Technology
Sports fans are probably aware of some of the technology used by professional rugby or football players that monitors their heart rates and their mobility around the field. Examples of such technology are also increasing available and used as a tool for training of equine athletes
 
NZTR is currently working with two vet practices, supporting a pilot trial of the Equimetre technology which captures and enables real-time analysis of heart function, stride & gait and speed & distance.
 
The pilot trial will encompass longitudinal analysis of individual horses, which along with clinical data will enable assessment of the technology’s ability to determine normal progression of fitness and identification of any abnormalities. This will include:
  • the utility of the ECG diagnostic capability in identifying reasons for poor performance;
  • possible early indications of any abnormal issues with a horse’s stride and gait, or
  • confirming fitness and satisfactory recovery from known abnormalities.
Feedback and findings of the trial will be provided mid-2023 to equine vets generally, and by NZTR to trainers and owners.
 

New Zealand Equine Health Association
In addition to supporting research directly, NZTR also partners with relevant organisations to support research that will advance not just the Thoroughbred industry but equine health in New Zealand as a whole. One such organisation is the New Zealand Equine Health Association (NZEHA).

The New Zealand Equine Health Association (NZEHA) was established in 1998 in response to changes in animal and biosecurity law which is now laid out in the NZ Biosecurity Act 1993, they have been advocating for the equine industry in matters relating to equine health, equine welfare and equine disease incursion ever since. NZTR’s annual membership for NZEHA is not funded from the 1% Levy.

The NZEHA has major accolades to their name in the field of biosecurity and has been successful in eradicating and restoring country freedom status for New Zealand with both Equine Viral Arteritis and Equine Piroplasmosis. In that regard the NZEHA has been crucial to the continued economic sustainability of the equine industry in NZ.

Pioneering a relationship between industry and government, NZEHA was one of the first primary industries to sign a Government Industry Agreement for Biosecurity (GIA). The GIA operates as a partnership between primary industry and government to manage pests and diseases that could badly damage New Zealand’s primary industries, economy, and environment.

Welfare has also always been an integral element of the NZEHA’s workflow and advocacy, and the importance of being at the front of the welfare conversation is ever increasing.
With a committee including a number of top veterinarians and equine industry experts, it is only right that the NZEHA is a key part of welfare conversations. This has enabled it to build strong credible relationships with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC). With several key projects on the horizon, including a single identification and traceability system for New Zealand equine owners, NZTR is extremely grateful to be able to partner with the NZEHA on matters relating to equine welfare.
 

POST-RACING SPONSORSHIP

NZTR continues to provide sponsorship to Thoroughbreds competing in equestrian disciplines with the aims of highlighting the versatility of the Thoroughbred breed and encouraging the uptake of Thoroughbreds into equestrian pursuits. Also, importantly, post racing sponsorship allows NZTR to gain traceability data on what Thoroughbreds are doing in their lives after racing.

In addition to this ongoing support, in conjunction with longstanding partner Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) we have recently announced that NZTR will increase the prize money on offer in the Thoroughbreds in Equestrian Sports (TiES) series that is run through existing ESNZ competitions.

This boost in TiES prizemoney is demonstration of NZTR’s serious commitment to Thoroughbreds in their lives after racing and aims offer an increased reward to those who do a consistently good job of transitioning horses into an equestrian sports career. In addition, TiES will reward Thoroughbreds who compete successfully at premier Equestrian events, such as the Horse Of The Year Show in a bid to once again highlight the potential and versatility of the breed across the sports of Dressage, Showjumping, Show Hunter and Eventing.

NZTR sponsorship is also provided to Thoroughbreds in Polo, Thoroughbreds in Showing and to numerous independently run events such as A&P shows throughout the year.
 
Monica Spencer on Artist (Guillotine x Maxamore).  Photo: Libby Law
 

WRAPPING UP

We hope you have found this second edition of our summary review of Thoroughbred welfare initiatives to be interesting and informative. 
 
It’s fair to say that while the NZTR team puts in a lot of effort in preparing and undertaking these various initiatives, there’s a further strategic level of planning which necessarily guides us both in our actions but also in the allocation of spend of the 1% levy. 
 
Through the past few months we have been working on a strategy which will guide our Thoroughbred welfare work in the two seasons to July 2024.  A foundation for this planning, was the 2022 Thoroughbred Welfare Forum which was held on 31 May 2022.  For a better understanding of this Forum and its purpose, I encourage you to take a few minutes to review this video
 
The forum discussion, and follow up feedback from the participants helped identify or validate the initiatives that will be expressed in the 2022 NZTR Thoroughbred Welfare Strategy which will be published by the end of October.  In preparing the strategy, we have been further guided by our consultation with NZ Trainers’ Association, NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, the Racing Integrity Board, Ministry for Primary Industries, the SPCA and other animal welfare experts.  Finally, the plan is in turn reviewed and approved by NZTR’s Racing & Integrity Committee and the NZTR Board.
 
Also, as indicated earlier in this update, NZTR will provide financial accountability for the 1% expenditure in NZTR’s 2022 Annual Report.  In our next update in late 2022, we will highlight both this and our published strategy.
 
In the meantime, and with the racing and breeding seasons are both now well and truly in full swing, I wish you all the best with your own Thoroughbreds.
Kind regards,
 
Martin Burns
GM – Welfare & Sustainability
M: 0275 110 348
E: [email protected]
 
 

APRIL NEWSLETTER

Welcome to the first of NZTR’s updates designed to keep participants up to date with work undertaken to safeguard and enhance the welfare of our equine participants.
 
NZTR understands the importance of accountability and transparency regarding how the 1% levy is spent. In this update we will focus on providing an overview of the eight key areas that this money has been allocated to in the 2021/22 season and give some insight into why each area has been identified as key in ensuring the very best welfare outcomes for our Thoroughbreds.
 

ACKNOWLEDGED RETRAINERS

The Acknowledged Retrainer network began its journey in June 2021. Following prior consultation with prospective retrainers and Beyond the Barriers NZ, NZTR sought expressions of interest from individuals wishing to gain Acknowledged Retrainer status. Applicants were required to demonstrate appropriate skills and experience, a track record in successfully rehoming Thoroughbreds, and provide a range of positive references. Further along in the application process, a property inspection also takes place before Acknowledged Retrainer status may be granted.
 
 
NZTR currently has 11 Acknowledged Retrainers, located throughout both islands from Cambridge to Riverton, with the scheme having been operational since August 2021. Based on current numbers, NZTR conservatively anticipates that the network of Acknowledged Retrainers will in aggregate rehome over 300 horses within its first 12 months of operation.
Placing a Thoroughbred with an Acknowledged Retrainer satisfies that horse’s accountable person’s duty of care to ensure that the horse is rehomed appropriately. This, along with the submission of a completed SR24 retirement form, ensures that both traceability requirements and horse welfare are at the forefront when a horse is retired.
 
Currently 33% of the total 1% levy is allocated to support Acknowledged Retrainers by providing training in the form of residential clinics and equipment and the application, in certain conditions, of the Leg Up Grant. This grant is available in circumstances, assessed individually, where a horse would otherwise not be profitable for an Acknowledged Retrainer to rehome. NZTR is also in the process of looking at additional support options, including how a nominal ‘per horse’ payment may be suitably made available to Acknowledged Retrainers.
 

MEET ACKNOWLEDGED RETRAINER JESS LAND

 

HELPING NEGLECTED HORSES

NZTR has Memorandums of understanding with MPI and the SPCA when it comes to assisting Thoroughbreds found in a state of neglect. NZTR also has agreements with selected equine rescue groups who are reputable and have proven to be aligned with NZTR’s welfare values, uphold excellent standards, and operate in a professional manner.
 
NZTR uses the 1% levy to support Thoroughbreds found in a state of neglect by providing foster care, feed, and assisting with veterinary and other animal husbandry costs before each horse can be rehomed appropriately.
 
Currently 9% or $50,000 of the total 1% levy is allocated to assist horses in this way. So far this season, 19 Thoroughbreds have been supported and had their basic needs provided for using the 1% levy. Several of these horses have now been successfully rehomed whilst others temporarily remain in foster arrangements throughout New Zealand.
 

THE NEW ZEALAND HORSE AMBULANCE TRUST

Thanks to an enormous capital fundraising effort by the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust and generous financial support of prominent Thoroughbred entities Cambridge Stud, Valachi Racing and New Zealand Bloodstock, there are nine operational horse ambulances operational in New Zealand. This means that every Thoroughbred race and trials meeting now has a horse ambulance in attendance whilst most major training centres have one available on site or nearby, ready to be deployed as needed. Each ambulance is designed to allow an injured horse to be safely loaded and transferred to receive specialist veterinary treatment. A horse ambulance improves welfare outcomes by minimising the risk of further or worsening injury throughout the patient transfer process.
 
The 1% levy is used to cover the operational cost of having a horse ambulance in attendance at every Thoroughbred Race or Trials meeting, for the 2021/22 season this is a cost of $114,000 or 19% of the overall 1% welfare levy on stakes money. Taking account of all race or trial meetings, this works out to less than $4 per starter.
 
So far in the 2021/22 season, horse ambulances have responded to 22 incidents involving Thoroughbred racehorses. To learn more about the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust you can visit their Facebook page or website.
 
 

COMMUNICATIONS

This season, 13% of the welfare levy on stakes money is allocated to communication, with both internal and external audiences. Welfare communications aim to educate the wider public on the excellent welfare standards experienced by the majority of Thoroughbreds in New Zealand. The communication budget is also able to highlight the variety of second and sometimes third careers that the #NZOTTB goes on to thrive in, in conjunction with our post-racing sponsorship endeavours.
 
This portion of the welfare levy spend allows NZTR to ensure the most up to date research is presented to the industry, such as the video below which explains the benefits of early exercise.
 
 
Another way in which the 1% levy allows NZTR to communicate about our off-track Thoroughbreds is by having a presence at key equine lifestyle events such as Equifest and the Horse of the Year show. Here, NZTR can connect with the equestrian community, provide education on the support available to Thoroughbreds in their lives after racing and pick up more invaluable traceability data.
 

POST-RACING SPONSORSHIP

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing continues to support our #NZOTTBs in their lives after racing through numerous different sponsorship avenues. Currently 14% of the overall welfare levy is allocated to promote Thoroughbreds in their second careers. From NZTR’s perspective, the benefits to post racing sponsorship are threefold, delivering the following benefits,
  • Incentivizing the uptake of Thoroughbreds into other disciplines and promoting their versatility,
  • Gaining valuable traceability data,
  • Demonstrating the variety of a ‘life after racing’ to external audiences and the public.
NZTR currently funds Thoroughbreds in Equestrian Sports (TiES) which is run in conjunction with ESNZ. TiES runs as a series throughout the equestrian competition season and awards accumulator points for Thoroughbreds competing across Show Jumping, Show Hunter, Dressage and Eventing.
 
 
 
NZTR also provides sponsorship to Beyond the Barriers NZ, the New Zealand Show Horse Council and various independent organising committee’s throughout New Zealand who host specific classes for Thoroughbreds, showcasing their versatility.
 
In 2020, NZTR also launched its Thoroughbreds in Polo Scheme in conjunction with the New Zealand Polo Association and its representative clubs. This season, the scheme has expanded and has resulted in NZTR gathering the details of approximately 350 Thoroughbreds who are currently competing in Polo which is a huge benefit to NZTR’s Traceability Endeavours. In addition, NZTR has been able to use collaborative media opportunities to highlight the #NZOTTB’s competing in Polo internationally and those involved in Polo breeding in New Zealand.
 
 
 

RESEARCH

This season, 5% of the total welfare levy on stakes money will be used to support research that will provide greater insight into and understanding of the factors that influence Thoroughbred Welfare and Injury. This work will be undertaken in conjunction with Massey University and other Academic Institutions.
 
In addition, NZTR has recently initiated a pilot trial of diagnostic technology supplied by equine data science Company, Arioneo to explore how enhanced physiological metrics can be made available to trainers in real time as horses work. In addition to providing further insight into a horse’s physical fitness and response to exercise, this technology should aid in early detection of injuries or conditions that could pose a tangible threat to horse welfare.
 

TRACEABILITY

NZTR appreciates the efforts of Accountable Persons in promptly submitting the SR24 Death or Retirement forms for their horses. Whilst NZTR is proactively chasing up returns for horses that have not raced or bred in recent periods, the system of traceability for our Thoroughbred population is greatly enhanced by these returns being submitted in a timely and accurate manner.
 
This matters greatly in assisting NZTR to better understand and explain how our population of horses that have been bred and trained to race, then progress to their ‘second careers’. We provided an overview of our traceability data in NZTR’s 2021 Annual Report (page 16), and look forward to being able to better refine such analysis in the future. There’s no fee attached to the SR24, and no excuse to failure to file! We are looking forward to the introduction of NZTR’s new data systems which will make the process of filing even easier.
 
While thinking about traceability, filing returns and data analysis is one thing, but we continue to be thrilled with every entry in our ‘Wall of Fame’ which showcases the many and varied lives in second careers that our horses enjoy. We have this week passed 200 Thoroughbreds on ‘the wall’.
 
Whether you have details to provide regards death or retirement, or which to nominate your loved retired horse for the Wall of Fame, please contact Donna Cameron via [email protected].
 

WELFARE MONITORING AND COMPLIANCE

There’s not too much to report in this area yet other than that NZTR and the Racing Integrity Board are collaborating in the planning of effective programmes of oversight of welfare compliance including stable visits.
 

WRAPPING UP

I hope this initial update is interesting and useful to your understanding of NZTR’s welfare initiatives.
 
The 1% levy on stakes is critically important in sustainably funding these initiatives, and we are committed to being accountable for this spending through these updates and in NZTR’s Annual Reports.
 
As the levy commenced in September 2021, this funding is new, and NZTR intends to spend this carefully and on viable long-term programmes. This means that in the initial season or two, as we scope out additional and potentially sizeable and exciting welfare opportunities NZTR will commit a percentage of ‘welfare reserve’ that will be committed to such future use.
 
If you have feedback on this update, or ideas for NZTR to consider, please get in touch with me.
 
As a bonus read, if you are interested in what’s going on globally regarding initiatives to support Thoroughbred’s post-racing, please read the latest Global Aftercare Newsletter which has been compiled by the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR). IFAR is a collaborative forum for the exchange of ‘best practice’ ideas and initiatives that assist the retired Thoroughbred. NZTR has been an active member of IFAR since its first major conference in 2017. Like 2021, this year’s conference is being held online on 5 & 19 April. All sessions will be available for public review on the IFAR website.
 
Kind regards,
 
Martin Burns
GM – Welfare & Sustainability
M: 0275 110 348
E: [email protected]