Equine Welfare

  • France Galop's actions with regard to welfare

    The aim and management of the regulations.
    The Racing Code considers horse welfare in a large number of its clauses: Racing Code & General Terms and Conditions

    This code regulates:

    - A person's ability to own, train or ride horses: Experience and training are vital. France Galop organises 5 training courses per year for professional and amateur trainers, during which participants are able to learn the necessary skills.

    - The monitoring of racehorse training centres: A racehorse training centre cannot be opened until the facilities have been checked, both with regard to its operations and the stabling and welfare of the horses.
    - The monitoring and protection of the horses' state of health: The horses' state of health is checked at every phase of their sporting career, including their rest periods. At the racecourse: Before the race: tack, shoes and whips are all checked. During the race: no remounting, use of the whip. After the race: medical care for injured or exhausted horses. In training, out of training and even at stud.
    Drug checks for races, in training, out of training and even at stud: More than 12,000 checks are carried out to detect the presence of prohibited substances in racehorses. France Galop fights against doping and applies a zero-tolerance attitude with regard to medication for any horses declared in a race. Any treatments carried out during training or when the horse is at rest must be in the interest of the horse's health and welfare. These preparatory stages are also subject to controls. 240 training establishments were checked in 2016, with samples taken from just under a thousand horses. 

    Biosafety and the monitoring of infectious and/or contagious diseases
    Horse hygiene is one of the key factors for their welfare. Equestrian events are a breeding ground for disease, particularly contagious diseases. Vaccination against equine flu is obligatory and strictly controlled. France Galop plays an active role in the Réseau d’EpidémioSurveillance des Pathologies Equines (RESPE, the French Network for the Surveillance of Equine Pathologies) as well as the International Collecting Centre (ICC). These networks constantly monitor hygiene, not only on French soil but all over Europe, allowing for the rapid implementation of hygiene measures in the event of a risk.

    Racehorse retraining and retirement
    Ten years ago, France Galop signed a partnership with the Ligue Française de Protection du Cheval (French Horse Protection League) to take care of horses that were leaving training and could not go to stud or be retrained for other activities (equestrian sports, trekking, pleasure riding, etc.). A racehorse retraining fund ("Fonds de Reconversion des Chevaux de Courses au Galop") was set up in 2007, which enables members of France Galop to donate 1/1000 of their race winnings to help retrain racehorses.
    We are currently setting up a partnership with the Au-Delà Des Pistes (ADDP) charity to promote the retraining of former racehorses.

    Internationally: France Galop sits on several international committees dedicated to the welfare of horses: the Welfare Committee of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, the Welfare Sub-Committee of the International Stud Book Committee, and the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses.

  • The Equine Welfare Charter

    On 4th March 2016, the entire horse industry came together at the Paris International Agricultural Show to sign the Equine Welfare Charter, under the aegis of the FNSEA. This symbolic act cements the commitments made by the stakeholders in the racing industry. 
    The Charter

  • FAQ

    1.    Who is responsible for the welfare of racehorses?
    Any person involved in horse racing is responsible for equine welfare. This goes from trainers and their staff, who take care of the horses' everyday needs, to the racecourse teams who provide the facilities and the racecourse staff who ensure the environment on race days is suitable for the horses. France Galop received a public service mission from the French government for the organisation of horse races and its associated breeding activity. France Galop is therefore the authority responsible for regulating horse races and ensuring the horses' welfare. French races are some of the best-regulated animal activities in the world. The standards required in this sport go far beyond those required by national animal welfare regulations. France Galop signed the Equine Welfare Charter on 4th March 2016, which was also signed by all members of the horse industry in France, and the International Agreement for Breeding, Racing and Wagering. France Galop is actively involved in the work carried out by international equine welfare committees.

    2.    Is horse racing well monitored?
    France Galop also guarantees the conformity of races in France. Race commissioners ensure that the Racing Code is applied at every race meeting. A certain number of practices that might harm the horses' welfare are prohibited: running a pregnant mare after the 4th month of gestation, performing neurectomies, artificially modifying the passage of air in the airways, using cryotherapy or shock wave therapy. The use of whips is strictly controlled: the authorised type and characteristics of a whip are set out in the Racing Code. Whips must be covered with a cushioned sleeve and must not be used brutally or excessively. The numerous video systems set up to record the races also enable us to monitor jockey behaviour and to penalise any excessive use of the whip. More than 12,000 checks have been carried out to detect the presence of prohibited substances in racehorses. France Galop fights against doping and applies a zero-tolerance attitude with regard to medication for any horses declared for a race. Samples are taken for all races. These checks are also carried out during training and during rest periods, on racehorses and stud horses. Every year, more than 300 training or rest centres are checked, with samples taken to ensure that the medical treatments used are required for health and that there is no misuse. The 1,100 race meetings held every year must adhere to strict specifications, in particular with regard to stabling, protection and checks on the horses. When a jockey or horse falls during a race, the horse is not authorised to carry on and finish the race, even if he does not look to be injured. Before the race, the on-duty vet can declare a horse a "NON-STARTER" if he notices the slightest hint of illness and considers that the horse is not fit to run.

    3.    What are the standards that apply to veterinary care given to racehorses?
    French racing is committed to providing the best veterinary care possible.
    The racecourses employ experienced vets who are equipped to deal with any kind of emergency. Horse boxes are available to evacuate horses to a clinic in the event of injury. On race days, at least 2 vets are on duty at the racecourse: one to take care of any emergency treatments in the event of an accident, and the other to take test samples.
    The bill of specifications and safety guide for each racecourse list all of the measures that should be put in place, as well as the procedures that should be applied for all race meetings.

    4.    How is a horse's age determined?
    In the northern hemisphere, most racehorses are born between January and May. All racehorses in the northern hemisphere are considered to have their birthday on 1st January.

    5.    At what age can a horse start racing?
    The age and type of race in which a thoroughbred can run depend on a certain number of factors, which are described in more detail in the Racing Code. A horse bred for the flat cannot run before the start of the flat season in their second year, while horses bred for jumps cannot start racing before 15th February in their third year for hurdles and in July for steeplechases. Furthermore, there are a certain number of age restrictions for jumps races, and consequently many horses will be over the age of 3 when they compete for the first time. 

    6.    What are the benefits of exercise for young horses?
    An important scientific study has been carried out about the training of young thoroughbreds, a very precocious breed, for racing. It has been demonstrated that exercise and race training have a positive effect on the muscular-skeletal development of these young horses, promoting bone density and muscle development. Thoroughbreds that started training at the age of two were found to have a longer sporting career than those who started training at the age of three or older. 

    7.    How risky is racing for the horses?
    France Galop is constantly working to reduce the risks for both horses and jockeys. However, like all equestrian activities, it is impossible for participants to have zero risk. Great efforts have been made to fit out the racecourses in a way that reduces risk: use of anti-slip surfaces for the stables and course access, replacement of cement walls with plastic walls, improvements to the ground and obstacles, replacement of the jumps' wooden ground poles with foam ground poles, creation of a recovery area where vets can treat horses who are exhausted after their race, and medical facilities allowing horses to be treated on site before potentially being transferred by horse ambulance to a veterinary clinic. We must recognise that horses face the risk of injury throughout their life, whether during equestrian activities, when turned out, when exercising at home with their owner, or when doing what they were bred to do, i.e. running around a course. A study carried out by the University of Liverpool showed that 62% of "injuries" (ranging from grazes to breaks) suffered by leisure horses and competition horses occurred when they were turned out in a field, compared with only 13% during exercise.
    In the event of an incident during a race:
    -    Any horse affected will immediately be attended to and treated by the racecourse vet
    -    Qualified doctors and paramedics will also be present in the event of an injured jockey.
    -    If necessary, the racehorses and riders will be transported from the place of injury to a more appropriate place for receiving medical attention, such as a veterinary clinic or the Accident & Emergency department of a hospital.

    8.    What role does France Galop play in reducing the risk for racehorses?
    France Galop takes equine welfare very seriously and is constantly seeking to make improvements that will reduce risk, both with regard to the racecourse facilities and the courses themselves.
    Any accidents that occur on the racecourse are studied and carefully analysed so as to pinpoint the cause and make changes, where possible.
    Of course, constant effort is made to improve the safety of jockeys and their treatment in the event of a fall. However, no further details are given here, as this is a document about horse welfare. 

    9.    Has the risk involved in horse racing become lower?
    Yes. Thanks to our continuous research and strict enforcement of the racing standards, the number of accidents – and also their consequences – have significantly reduced.

    10.    Is there a veterinary service on duty every race day?
    A certain number of qualified veterinary surgeons and personnel are on duty at the racecourse every race day. They can be split into three categories:
    - (1) Emergency vets
    There is at least one vet on duty at every race meeting. One of the vet's main responsibilities is to monitor the horses' welfare and ensure that the standards put in place by France Galop are adhered to. The vet is authorised to check the state of health of any horse present on the racecourse, including in the stables and paddock, and when the horses come back in after a race.
    - (2) Anti-doping vets
    A team comprised of a vet and a technician is on duty on every racecourse. This team takes the samples for the drug tests for every race. More than 12,000 checks are carried out to detect the presence of prohibited substances in racehorses.
    - (3) Technical staff to assist the vets
    The vets are assisted by technicians who have been trained in emergency operations on horses.
    Horse ambulances are available on every site to guarantee the fast and safe transport of injured horses, either to the racecourse's veterinary facilities or to a specialist equine veterinary practice.

    11.    How are the horses chosen for drug tests?
    Except in extenuating circumstances, biological samples are taken from the horses in the first five positions in "Event" races, in the first three positions in Group 1 races, and the first two positions in Group 2 races. All winners are tested and the Race Commissioners reserve the right to test any other horse declared for the meeting.

    12.    Why can an injury threaten a horse's life?
    The most serious injuries sustained by racehorses are bone fractures. With the advances made in veterinary medicine, a certain number of fractures suffered by horses can now be repaired, enabling the horse to continue its racing career or another career. However, there may be complications that make some injuries more difficult to mend than others. One of the biggest challenges faced by vets when treating any breed of horse is not mending the fracture itself, but the post-surgical complications and the rehabilitation of an animal weighing 500kg. Horses are unable to get used to the period of immobilisation that is vital for repairing broken bones, and the inactivity of convalescence. Furthermore, horses cannot stay lying down for long periods of time, or avoid putting weight on a leg in plaster. Repairing a broken bone requires the patient to avoid putting weight on the instable fracture until the bone has fused. This means that many fractures cannot be mended, and this does not even consider the risk of infection, which is very high in open fractures. The pain inherent with the horse's inability to immobilise the site of certain fractures and the bleak outlook for their repair mean that the most humane thing to do us to euthanise (put down) the horse. This is always a very painful decision for the horse's owner and entourage, and is only taken when there is no hope for recovery and the horse is suffering.

    13.    What does "euthanise" mean?
    Euthanasia for humane reasons can be defined as "pain-free killing to relieve suffering". A certain number of criteria must be fulfilled: when the horse is in an invalidating, unbearable or incurable medical state, when the immediate vital prognosis is bleak or its life will be limited to the confinement associated with continuous antalgic treatment, and when a decent future life has been ruled out. 

    14.   What happens to the horses at the end of their career?  
    France Galop takes the fate of racehorses when their career comes to an end very seriously. Our responsibility goes beyond the end of their racing career. In France, racehorses are all microchipped: it is therefore possible to track them to find out what has happened to them when they have left the world of racing. A certain number of racehorses are sent to stud, where they begin a career as breeding stock. Others start a career in equestrian sport: thoroughbreds are highly sought-after for their sporting ability and their stamina. Finally, thoroughbreds are also suitable for leisure, trekking or hacking. France Galop works with two charities: Au-Delà Des Pistes (ADDP), which deals with retraining racehorses, and La Ligue Française de Protection des Chevaux, for horses that cannot be retrained. In 2007, the members of France Galop created a racehorse retraining fund, to which they donate a percentage of their race winnings, thus raising money to help retrain former racehorses. More and more retired racehorses are enjoying a successful second career in another discipline, such as polo, dressage, show jumping or entertainment.

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  • Become a member of the "Fonds de Reconversion des Chevaux de Courses au Galop"

    You can easily become a member of France Galop's "Fonds de Reconversion des Chevaux de Courses au Galop" (Racehorse Retraining Fund). Simply send an email to bienetre-equin@france-galop.com or fill in this form. Everyone who becomes a member of France Galop is sent the membership.


  • Our Partners

    Au-Delà Des Pistes

    Ligue Française de Protection du Cheval

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