‘Lifetime care’ for race horses is a disgrace – help us call for a hopeful future

Posted on the 28th March 2024

Every year, around 13,000 foals are born into the British and Irish racing industries, in the owners’ hope to breed the “next big winner”. Many of these horses will never even see a racecourse. Most will not even win a race. If a horse is not winning prize money for jockeys, owners and trainers, they are viewed as useless to the racing industry. This leaves them vulnerable.

What happens to the approx. 7,500 horses who leaving racing each year? There is a shameful lack of information surrounding a huge number of these. Alarmingly, the last available data is from 2008, which detailed that 2,404 horses could not be traced two years after leaving racing in 2006.

  • 852 were reported dead
  • 743 were point-to-pointing
  • 582 went into ‘sport or recreation’
  • 1,446 retired to stud
  • 186 were sold at auction with no further records
  • 1,168 were exported to race

*Published in Horse and Hound Magazine May 2010

These figures are shocking. Moreover, while the racing industry will proudly claim that thousands of horses were retired to stud; we know that the lives of stallions and mares consist of exploitation and abuse.

Breeding stallions are effectively enslaved by an industry that regards them as mere semen producing machines. They are kept isolated from other horses and, for as long as 20 years, can be required to impregnate three mares a day during the six month breeding season.

Bred To Death

(Read Bred To Death here)

The Horse Welfare Board (HWB) published its’ five-year strategy ‘A life well-lived’ in February 2020. This initiative was meant to improve the welfare of race horses – both during and after their “careers”. However, we are four years into this five-year strategy, and there has been no meaningful change. Every year, around 200 horses die on British racecourses. Race horses are still being sold and slaughtered for their meat once no longer of use to the industry. An unknown number are killed in their yards. Others are sold from person to person in a downward spiral of neglect.

As ever, the racing industry’s empty rhetoric means nothing to the horses who are suffering every day on its watch.

A life not well lived

As part of the five-year strategy, the HWB commissioned a Thoroughbred Census in 2023 to try and increase traceability of race horses. The results should be released at the end of March. However, as this was a voluntary census, the results are, ultimately, bound to be futile.

Whilst only a curb on the overbreeding of foals – and an end to the industry – can effectively solve this huge welfare crisis, it is pitiful that so little is being done to help the horses who retire from racing each year. 10% of the £billion profit made by racing is collected by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), which allocates less than 1% of this money towards race horse aftercare – roughly £130 per horse.

This is why we are supporting MP George Eustice’s call for £12 million to be allocated by the HBLB towards race horse aftercare. This is the very least that can be done to try and provide a hopeful future for the horses leaving racing each year. And we need your help.

Other ways you can help race horses:

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