The 7th International Forum for Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR), an international organization promoting the aftercare of racehorses, was held in Melbourne Australia, in conjunction with the 39th Asian Racing Conference on February 14th, 2023.
The Asia Racing Conference is a meeting of member countries that are a part of the Asian Racing Federation. The purpose of this conference is to strengthen relations, promote exchange of information and discuss the current trends and challenges in racing to pave the way for future growth in the industry. The first Asian Racing Conference was held in Tokyo more than 60 years ago, in May of 1960. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year was the first time the conference was held in three years. Over 700 representatives of various racing organizations from 35 countries attended the business sessions.
To learn more about the business sessions, please take a look at the Asia Racing Federation’s website below.
IFAR is an organization that was founded in 2016 in order to promote the aftercare of retired racehorses. Once a year they organize a conference that is open to anybody who is interested in the aftercare of racehorses. In this year’s conference there were over 200 participants from 28 countries. JRA also became a supporter of IFAR last year. This year’s conference was the largest in scale to date and countries that did not express interest in the aftercare of racehorses in the past participated this year, so it is clear that interest in the initiative is growing.
Please take a look at the video below for highlights of the conference.
I have been involved with IFAR since its preparatory stages, so I was very moved by the realization and success of this year’s forum. In this column, I will share some details from the event.
Demonstration of the retraining program
For the first time ever, a field trip was organized in this year’s forum.
The destination was to Spring Creek Equine which is located in Yara Valley, about 50km from Melbourne. This facility is run by Samantha Cesnik and Chris Height who are both equestrians and certified retrainers of Racing Victoria. The field trip included a demonstration of Racing Victoria’s retired racehorse programs using real retired racehorses, and a demonstration of Spring Creek’s retraining program. I was impressed to learn that this organization accepts many horses from the RESET Program, which I have introduced in past articles. (The RESET Program is for retired racehorses whose temperament, age, or history of problems have prevented them from successfully moving on to a second career).
Promoting exchanges between members of various countries and the sharing of their respective success stories are an important part of IFAR’s mission. I believe that this opportunity to see, touch and feel the programs on-site and in-person really helped to encourage the members from countries that do not yet have an aftercare program for racehorses to make the decision to implement similar programs. Unlike meetings in a conference room, being on-site allowed the participants to exchange very casual and relaxed conversations and it encouraged many people to ask questions, which made the outing even more informative and meaningful.
IFAR hopes that all countries that participate in racing will introduce aftercare programs.
Di Arbuthnot, chair of IFAR said in her greeting address, “There should be a new life waiting for all Thoroughbreds after it reaches the end of its racing career, regardless of where they are in the world. The racing industry needs to develop, implement and provide aftercare programs for their horses.”
The racing industry and equestrian industry working as one
After the field trip, the forum returned to Melbourne City. Speakers and panellists from Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan discussed the aftercare programs in their countries, the major advances that has been achieved in recent years, and projects that will further connect the racing and equestrian world in the future.
One of the projects that was introduced was the Own After Racing (OAR) program. This initiative is run by Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse and co-trainer Adrian Bott. In this program, racehorse owners continue to own their horses after retirement and actively participate in the transition period (retraining and rehoming) of the horse’s second career.
Adrian’s wife and showjumper, Jessica Bott said, “I find it interesting that there are owners and many others in the racing industry who do not yet know of the existence of these retraining and rehoming programs. The growing cooperation between the racing and equestrian world is very exciting and I believe it is vital to both our industries.”
Having those in the racing industry continue to support Thoroughbreds into their second careers will form connections that help deepen understanding between the two worlds.
I believe this will further expand the possibilities for Thoroughbreds in their second careers and such a program will be beneficial in Japan as well.
The lectures and panel discussions held during the forum can be viewed on IFAR’s YouTube channel.
IFAR also creates videos on topics related to retired racehorses around the world. In the episode below Japan was featured for the RRC (Retired Racehorse Cup) finals competition.
▶︎ https://youtu.be/z1Qbs8DSBcg (IFAR Video Magazine E2)
The need to keep moving forward
The advancements that have been made in aftercare efforts for retired racehorses over the past decade has been very significant.
However, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed. There are issues in funding, the balance between supply and demand for retired racehorses, traceability, communication, and many more. Unfortunately, there are still too many to list in this article. This is why I believe it is vital for all people who are involved in each aspect of a Thoroughbred’s life to be involved, cooperate, learn and support one another, and continue working towards overcoming these challenges.
Thoroughbreds are what connect us all and they are the very heart of racing. We should strive to keep moving forward together for the sake of these wonderful horses.