Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare for the British Horseracing Authority writes to the Liverpool Echo. In his letter (in full, below) he tells readers: ” However, what viewers may not have seen is that due to the unseasonably warm weather, all the jockeys had been told to dismount from their horses as soon as the race was over in order to allow handlers and vets to get water to the horses”.
Had viewers been told beforehand, or the BBC briefed to build it into the coverage as water was being sloshed around everywhere at the end, it would have done two things:
Helped explain to the uninitiated what was happening and why
Given the message that detailed planning had gone into the organisation of the race
A vital PR opportunity missed.
Tim Morris’s letter
ALL those who love racing and horses will have been saddened by the accidents which led to the deaths of Ornais and Dooney’s Gate during the Grand National this year.
It was distressing for all of us to watch – those involved in racing care deeply for their horses.
This care and concern is why horseracing has for many years worked closely with legitimate animal welfare charities, such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare. However, racing is a sport with risk, and the Grand National is the most testing race in Great Britain. Racing is open and transparent about this risk and works hard to reduce it.
TV viewers saw several welfare measures in action at this year’s race. For the first time, two fences were bypassed to minimise the risk of further accidents and run-outs were introduced so that those horses that had lost their riders could run around fences rather than jump them. Viewers will also have seen the winning jockey, Jason Maguire, jump off after the race and his horse, Ballabriggs, cooled with water. However, what viewers may not have seen is that due to the unseasonably warm weather, all the jockeys had been told to dismount from their horses as soon as the race was over in order to allow handlers and vets to get water to the horses
In addition, Mr Maguire was banned for five days for exceeding the strict limits which the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the sport’s regulator in Great Britain, places on the number of time he could use his whip. We will certainly be reviewing our rules to ensure that we have the balance right between appropriate use of the whip and stopping unacceptable use.
Not everyone supports racing, and Animal Rights activists such as Animal Aid are entitled to their views. The BHA believes that the overwhelming majority of the British public do not subscribe to this view, and want to see racing continue. We know the public also expects racing to do everything in its power to reduce risk to horses. The BHA is listening and is determined to ensure that this happens.
Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare, British Horseracing Authority