My thoughts in last month’s column provoked a number of responses from members and, interestingly, one from a TBA member and leading breeder of sports horses in Great Britain, who shared my concerns about the lack of health screening of both mares and stallions in the non-thoroughbred industry.
We have raised concerns over a number of years that so called ‘AI technicians’ work without recourse to the Codes of Practice, and to learn that even some members of the veterinary profession work with unscreened semen or embryos in the non-thoroughbred industry. This confirms that the TBA must do all we can to heighten awareness of the Codes of Practice and see that the recommendations are fully implemented throughout the country’s equine breeding establishments.
The UK is not alone in facing the disease risks posed by non-thoroughbreds; the recent CEM case in Ireland and the EVA outbreak in France give all the tripartite nations cause for concern.
Thankfully, through improved disease reporting and communication between the three nations, we can provide our respective members with information and education on how to deal with these matters.
Of course it is far harder to communicate with those outside of our reach, and for the TBA this includes some thoroughbred breeders in Britain who, despite the range of attractive membership benefits which annually outweigh the subscription cost, remain outside the TBA. Whilst the TBA did not seek actively to recruit members from the Horsemen’s Group Bonus Scheme, we support the concept of rewarding those who assume their share of responsibility and are prepared to make a small financial contribution to benefit their industry – and themselves.
“Our funders and regulators must move their attention to those that produce, train and race thoroughbreds”
Frustratingly, so many of the TBA’s successes are also enjoyed by a minority of breeders who ride on the backs of others to receive benefits. This includes the positive outcomes from veterinary research funding and protection from vigilant disease surveillance, lobbying for entitlement to receive Single Farm Payments for permanent pasture grazed by horses, marketing and promotion efforts, staff welfare, education and training, and even sponsorship for mares’ only races.
All these items are examples of valuable benefits also enjoyed by those who make no financial contribution whatsoever. How is that acceptable? And why should the Horsemen’s Group be criticised when it creates benefits which can only be accessed by its members?
These are not measures to force membership, but to ensure rewards are made where they are deserved. The Horsemen’s Group continues to provide a key resource to its five member associations and in turn their members. The TBA is not an exclusive club, but a well-respected organisation, run by professionals and staffed by committed executives. We exist to support the improvement of the thoroughbred horse and should not be ashamed of our motives for so doing.
I believe that the British breeding industry is far from safe from the deepening general economic crisis. A few headline figures at the breeze-up sales are unlikely to be sufficient to cause optimism amongst the ranks of commercial breeders. Production continues to be depressed and breeders with an abundance of filly foals must be wondering how they are going to survive another sales season. The number of horses in training in this country has fallen a further 4% from 2011, representing a year-on-year decline of 15%.
The sport of British racing continues to enjoy record attendance and the recent tremendous efforts of promoters and sponsors must be acknowledged, but now our funders and regulators must move their attention to those that produce, train and race our thoroughbreds, and ensure that there are sufficient financial returns to encourage them to remain in the business of the horse.
Witness Frankel’s racecourse work on 2,000 Guineas day. Despite the absence of pomp, ceremony and a betting opportunity, he very nearly stole the show.