The welfare of our thoroughbred horses is of paramount importance for anyone with even the slightest connection to breeding and racing, and how we care for them, and are seen to be caring for them, at every stage of their lives is a vital part of how the outside world perceives the sport in Britain.

Breeders bring foals into the world and therefore have a welfare responsibility from the very beginning

Each and every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that from the time thoroughbreds are foaled and while they are racing they receive the best possible care and attention. Then, if they do not go on to form part of the breeding herd at the end of their racing careers, we must make sure the best options are found for their futures. Retirement from racing can last a long time.

As breeders, we bring foals into the world and therefore have a welfare responsibility from the very beginning. That explains why, in order to support this aim, with the help of Weatherbys and through the General Stud Book, the TBA has introduced some changes to the modest opt-in contributions to be found on the foal registration form.

This facility is now live, and I would urge all TBA members registering 2018 foals to tick the boxes that allow for a contribution to be made to the Retraining of Racehorses (ROR) charitable organisation and a modest amount that will be ring-fenced to support our veterinary research activity.

The TBA already contributes collectively to ROR, but we believe this more visible system will increase support and ensure that the responsibility of breeders is recognised. The sum has been deliberately set at a modest level, as most of the horses that breeders register will not need such support, but those few who do will have the benefit of the breeders’ contribution.

The TBA’s budget for veterinary research in 2018 amounts to almost £250,000. Decisions on which projects to support are made by our Veterinary Committee, working to objectives that include funding study projects, providing support and guidance on the surveillance and control of infectious diseases, and disseminating information, advice and guidance to members on all relevant veterinary matters. And where we contribute to the Animal Health Trust’s diagnostic work and vaccine research, our backing helps to unlock other funding to ensure this essential work is undertaken.

The association supports other research projects, and the recent studies carried out on early pregnancy loss and parasite issues are very relevant to all breeders.

The Levy Board has been a valuable supporter of veterinary research for nearly 60 years but, with its role about to change, the shadow Racing Authority, which I am pleased to report is constituted and up and running, has asked me to look into the board’s entire veterinary research, education and equine health budget, with the aim of reviewing the structure and process that has supported this excellent work.

Inevitably there will be an opportunity to update and modernise the way in which this expenditure is prioritised and then monitored. This is a real opportunity for racing’s stakeholders to unite in support of veterinary work that, as a result of Levy Board support, has often turned Britain into a world leader.

Liaison with veterinarians around the globe is becoming ever more important, and the high-health status being sought for UK horses to allow free movement around Europe in the post-Brexit era should be kept secure by our knowledge of what is happening elsewhere in the world.

The European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Associations and International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation, to both of which the TBA belongs, will have strong veterinary sessions this year, providing opportunities to ensure everyone is working together for the benefit of the health and welfare of thoroughbred horses both here and internationally, and where possible co-ordinating research with other countries.

By contributing to the TBA’s Veterinary Research Fund, members are supporting these key equine health and welfare programmes, including the veterinary research projects and infectious disease surveillance service.

So, please tick both boxes on the foal registration form and show that breeders care about the future health and welfare of their horses.