The third International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR), held in conjunction with the European & Mediterranean Horseracing Federation's (EMHF) General Assembly at Øvrevoll Racetrack in Oslo, Norway, concluded May 16 with presentations on topics including the challenges regulators face when it comes to aftercare, the versatility of the Thoroughbred, an aftercare toolkit, and case studies of aftercare programs in France and Greece.
The IFAR conference has previously been held in Washington, D.C., in 2017, and in Seoul, South Korea, in 2018.
Andrew Chesser, secretary general of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and moderator of the conference, focused on the importance of regulatory agencies in aftercare and the need to extend traceability from the racing portion of a racehorse's career to their lives beyond the racetrack. Using Australia as an example, he noted that Racing Australia receives approximately 7,000 notifications of racehorse retirements each year.
Di Arbuthnot, the chair of IFAR and chief executive of Retraining of Racehorses, detailed an “aftercare toolkit,” developed in conjunction with Dr. Eliot Forbes, a member of IFAR's steering committee, that includes transition strategies from the racetrack to a second career, establishing a safety net to look out for at-risk horses, and advocating for the use of Thoroughbreds in a second career.
Paul Jepson, a welfare consultant for Retraining of Racehorses, presented on equine welfare issues in the United Kingdom and noted the importance of quickly assessing the potential of racehorses for second careers upon retirement and identifying vulnerable horses before they end up in precarious situations.
Dr. Niki Markogianni, the founder of Hippolysis, an equine therapy center in Greece, demonstrated how working with former racehorses can have a positive impact on individuals, families, teams, and the horses themselves.
“Horses connect with humans in the same way that humans connect with our subconscious,” said Dr. Markogianni. “When a horse is trained, it is willing to help you and mirror your subconscious, helping you understand yourself and find solutions to your own problems.”
Alix Choppin of Au-Delà des Pistes, a French aftercare organization launched in 2016, educated attendees on this aftercare charity. In just three years, the organization has already made great strides, having accredited 17 aftercare organizations and formalized a partnership with France Galop.
Richard Ramsey, a show producer and member of the Retraining of Racehorses Showing Committee, was interviewed by Di Arbuthnot about the potential of Thoroughbreds to excel in other disciplines.
Diana Cooper, strategic advisor of charities for Godolphin, concluded the conference by talking about racing owners' responsibility when it comes to Thoroughbred aftercare and how Godolphin cares for and retrains its former racehorses around the world.
“The educational presentations from our speakers and engaging conversations among attendees at today's IFAR conference indicate the significance of Thoroughbred aftercare in the racing industry on a global scale and the need for industry stakeholders to collaborate on best practices in aftercare and educating the public and equestrian world on the capability of a Thoroughbred to have a successful career once it leaves the racetrack,” said Arbuthnot. “We extend our gratitude to the European & Mediterranean Horseracing Federation and Norwegian Jockey Club for hosting us.”
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