There are times when experience in a field of endeavour outside horseracing can provide a useful guide as to how the sport should/could organise itself. Regulation is one such example. When I first dipped into the corporate and PLC world, the City was a free-for-all, largely unregulated and mostly unmanaged, leaving best practice and ethics to the conscience of individual companies and concerns.
Inevitably, there were bad apples in the barrel, resulting in reputational damage and outcomes that led to a series of public and not-so-public enquiries. Eventually, following events surrounding bank failures in the crisis of 2007-8, the quasijudicial Financial Services Authority was replaced by the nongovernmental Financial Conduct Authority, formed, perhaps ironically, on April 1, 2013, and imposed on the entire UK financial and PLC sector. Most would now recognise both the need for and importance of such an institution, and although it has not and never will completely rid the orchard of disease and crop failure, it does ensure that most financial apples can be eaten safely.
Thankfully, British racing is, in the main, well regulated. Racecourses, trainers, jockeys and owners are licensed in one form or another, and work is ongoing to bring syndicates and racing clubs to a position of accountability, which can only be a positive move.
Reputational damage can be so corrosive. Convincing some of British racing’s audience of the industry’s importance as a sport, a legacy, a significant employer and a major revenue earner for private and government interests alike is already an uphill task. We need to be clear with our own accountability and
transparency throughout the sector and externally.
To date, the breeding industry has been self-regulating. It is, however, responsible for the production of the racehorse and therefore present at the start and often the end of the life cycle of the thoroughbred. Welfare is an area where the consequences of any industry failures will have significant outcomes for the future of our breed for which we are all accountable.
It is of vital importance that we take action ourselves and put in place stringent measures so that we can positively and openly talk about what we have in place. The introduction of the 30-day foal notifications and spot inspections from the BHA are part of that process, with traceability of the thoroughbred at every stage of their life fundamental to this strategy.
Not everyone may approve of my raising the subject, but as King Canute could not hold back the tide, there is an inevitability about breeders’ responsibilities in these areas being more formalised. If we recognise that as a fact and work collectively to deliver the highest standards, acknowledging that traceability and transparency form part of that responsibility, the industry can shape its own future before impositions become the order.
It is not the only area where the breeding industry should adhere to the highest standards; protecting and enhancing the natural environment is also crucial and both are linked intrinsically to maintenance of our social licence to operate.
No longer can we say: “It’s my business and people need to keep their noses out!” We must take every step to ensure that we are doing the right thing and are seen to be doing so. The future and very existence of the bloodstock breeding world demands that we step up and are counted.
In this respect, the TBA will take every measure to protect, support and advise its membership and the industry. The Board and executive will do everything necessary to achieve a balance between a sensible future and an unregulated past, but to do so profitably these responsibilities must be fully understood and agreed within the breeding industry.
Also discussed recently at a Horses in Society seminar was the need for the industry to have profound multifaceted connectivity with society. Environmental sustainability is key to this vision. The TBA has developed a tool to help understand this part of our journey. The Stud Farm Carbon Calculator is the first of its kind within the industry and likely the first to have been developed across the equestrian world.
Free to all TBA members and accessible through our website, it provides valuable insight into a stud farm’s carbon emissions and allows breeders to model scenarios for reducing their carbon footprint, utilising resources more efficiently and saving money. The Stud Farm Carbon Calculator should reassure members that the TBA has environmental sustainability firmly on its agenda.