Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Questions (48)

Maureen O'Sullivan


48. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of horses injured and killed at racecourses and point-to-point events here to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48988/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a commercial state body established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001, and is responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) is the regulatory body for all horseracing in Ireland. The Board is a company limited by guarantee set up by the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee for the purpose of carrying out the regulatory and licensing functions for Irish horseracing.

The HRI and IHRB have informed me that 128 horses have been fatally injured racing at point-to-points and Irish racecourses to date this year. This figure represents 0.38% of the 33,746 runners in the same period and, given the mix of racing in Ireland (flat and national hunt) is consistent with other major racing jurisdictions.

The IHRB have also informed me that it is impractical to ascertain the number of injuries at racecourses/point-to-points. The timing of the injury will not always be obvious at the racecourse - for example, a horse could be injured when travelling to/from racecourses from the trainers yard. They may be withdrawn at a racecourse as a result of an injury sustained in previous days which is only apparent at a later time.

In common with other jurisdictions, the Irish racing authorities take equine welfare extremely seriously. The focus is to minimise the risk of injury to horse and jockey as much possible by ensuring that every link in the chain of care that surrounds our horses is a strong one.

On the race track, clerks of the course, employed by the IHRB and therefore, independent of the racecourses, work closely with the management of each track to maximise the safety of the course for horse and jockey. Many new initiatives have taken place in recent years in areas such as track surfaces, irrigation policies, hurdle and fence design and race surface maintenance.

Horses receive first class veterinary care at the track, from the vets providing first aid, from the Blue Cross and from the independent IHRB regulatory veterinary team. Every race meeting must have at least three veterinary surgeons present. There are pre-race risk-based inspections, appropriate and timely first aid in the event of an injury and careful follow up around each horse on the raceday itself.

I am satisfied therefore that adequate precautions are in place to protect horses as far as is practicable.