The general meeting of the International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation (ITBF), held in Lexington, Kentucky on November 1 as part of a wider programme of events hosted by the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association (TOBA), brought together breeders and veterinarians from 16 member countries on five continents.
I gave a short presentation explaining the TBA’s recently-published Economic Impact Study, which was well received. It was encouraging that several other nations recognised the benefit of having an independent study to demonstrate various issues of the moment to their own authorities.
It was hardly surprising to discover that many other countries are facing similar problems to those being encountered in Britain, which the EIS highlighted, with the ageing demographic of breeders and staffing problems among the most notable.
Horses need to be looked after every day, and the modern world of employment no longer expects employees, or even principals, to work seven days a week, as used to be the case.
While many of those employed in the industry look upon working with horses as a vocation and their dream job, they and their families also expect to be treated fairly in today’s working environment.
It is up to all of those involved to try to ensure we encourage new entrants, such as through the innovative E2SE course funded by the TBA and Racing Foundation which has just started its second course with a full intake, and retain those already working in the breeding industry by adjusting as much as possible to today’s lifestyle expectations.
A full-day veterinary session featured discussions on several relevant topics and provided confirmation that as horse movements increase across the industry, so does the risk of spreading disease.
The worldwide thoroughbred industry has been very good at reporting and containing many disease outbreaks, but the movement of non-thoroughbreds is far less controlled or monitored, and the rapid spread of disease among these horses can seriously endanger the health of thoroughbred breeding stock.
It was therefore particularly appropriate that one of the presentations at the veterinary meeting took bio-safety management as its subject and explained how, with careful thought and practical management, this could be dramatically improved.
Making sure that breeders think through bio-security measures makes absolute sense, and isolation should be practised wherever possible when any horse returns from outside the breeding herd. Any outbreak of disease in a horse is an issue, but spreading that infection can be a recipe for disaster.
Having said this, it was very encouraging to participate in the meeting and see at first hand how so many international vets are working together so willingly for the common good.
It means that any serious outbreak of disease among thoroughbreds, wherever it may occur in the world, will be dealt with firmly and monitored by every country involved in the production of these horses and hopefully the effects and spread will be eliminated or minimised.
Just two days after the ITBF meeting, the recent international success of British-bred horses, which has been noticed and commented on by many professionals, was further enhanced by victories at the Breeders’ Cup meeting at Churchill Downs for Expert Eye in the Mile and Enable in the Turf.
And a couple of days later came the clean sweep in the Melbourne Cup by Cross Counter, Marmelo, Prince Of Arran and Finche to confirm the quality of British bloodstock.
These results confirm what is already known, that Britain has some very good bloodlines and breeders. Given the right support, many more of their number can produce horses able to compete successfully around the world. Showcasing British breeding and the quality of our bloodstock across the globe has to be good for everyone involved in the sport.
The greater success for British-breds, the more likely the industry is to attract new interest from both here and overseas, and that in turn can lead to more investment through ownership and breeding.
We should be proud to say that Great Britain is the best place to breed and race thoroughbreds. Let’s trumpet our success and encourage everyone to get involved.