Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Integrity Portal

Equine Health and Welfare

Equine Welfare and the IHRB

Irish racing cares about its racehorses and works each day, every day, to protect them. The IHRB is part of this and has specific responsibility for it.


Under the 2016, Horse Racing Ireland Act, the IHRB as the Racing Regulatory Body is to be solely and independently responsible for the making and enforcing of the Rules of Racing and to provide adequate integrity services to horseracing.  Specifically, ‘integrity services’ means the services operated by or on behalf of the Racing Regulatory Body for the purposes of enforcing discipline and ensuring that horses are run fairly and properly.  If horses are to be run properly, the IHRB has a responsibility through its Rules, processes, interactions and representations to protect their health, welfare, safety and wellbeing.

Equine welfare permeates all our activities and we have the regulatory framework in place to safeguard one of our sport’s key participants, the horse, both now and into the future.

Rule 148 of the Rules Of Racing and Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Rules covers a number of areas pertaining to equine welfare. 

Some of the other rules which cover the area of equine welfare are:

Regulation 9 - covers the construction of fences, hurdles and track layout, as well as the control of horse in stable yard

Regulation 10 - is the regulation relating to Riders' equipment including whip use

Regulation 16 - specifies the gear permitted to be worn by horses during races. For example shoes, tongue ties and headgear

Rules 18, 20, 21, 96, 148 and 273 - These rules relate to equine anti-doping and medicine control 

Rules 18 and 90 - relate to the adequate time of arrival pre-race time

Rule 83 - is the rule that covers the restrictions on running pregnant mares

Rule 87 - covers the qualification of horses on a raceday 

Rule 91 - is the rule relating to Equine Influenza vaccinations

Rule 211 - sets out that any form of tight binding on a Horse's tail is forbidden

Rule 213 - refers to reporting matters to the IHRB

Rule 214 - is the rule which relates to interference where there may be careless, improper or dangerous riding 

Rule 225 - relates to horses slipping up or falling 


These Rules are put into operation alongside processes by expert regulatory staff on and off the racecourse for example:

On track:

  • Pre-race veterinary examinations – risk-based and ‘whole card’ assessment of Suitability to Race
  • During racing – ensuring and assisting with highest veterinary care
  • After racing – monitoring and ‘triaging’ any horses which need care

On training yards,

  • Veterinary assistants and/or Veterinary Officers authorised under legislation
  • Horse checks routine and key part of the inspections
  • Proactive link with licensing/disciplinary process if an issue
  • Authorised Officers have unprecedented access to Thoroughbreds

In the office,

  • Manage the confidential horse injury database (EPONA)
  • Follow up on any injured horses through our Horse Injury Assessment programme 
  • Point of contact for welfare concerns from public or the stakeholders 
  • Proactive education in welfare 
  • Annual Safety Review Meeting
  • Veterinary and Equine Welfare Committee (from spring 2018)
  • Active link on equine welfare with the Licensing Committee


Internationally, the IHRB is represented on the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA)’s Horse Welfare Committee with the Chief Veterinary Officer Chair of the International Group of Specialist Veterinarians. In both capacities, the IHRB has contributed to, and continues to develop, international work on equine welfare, safety and wellbeing – see here.

Examples of the IHRB protecting horse welfare on a daily basis:

Suitability to Race and Pre-race inspections

  • Every runner is inspected on a Raceday by the IHRB’s independent regulatory veterinary team prior to running
  • Whole card pre-race veterinary inspections have been carried out on a limited basis since 2014. These have now been expanded into a systematic approach to every race day, with targeting of horses with known history or factors which may place them at increased risk of injury
  • Once identified, this can trigger a conversation between the IHRB, the Trainer and their veterinary surgeon. This process is the basis of our Suitability to Race programme and these horses are formally monitored

Stable Inspections

  • Stable Inspections are led IHRB veterinary teams leading the inspections to complete a detailed audit of every horse on the premises, their medication records, their passports and their clinical condition. inspection of training premises
  • Follow up from Stable Inspections includes feedback to trainers, and where necessary contact with veterinary surgeons, with the process linked to the licensing and disciplinary departments to ensure that where needed regulatory action is taken
  • The Equine Injury Irish Racing Risk Reduction Project (EIIRRRP) is a project using data since 2012 to involving formal data analysis and interventions to reduce risk. 
  • Through its equine anti-doping and out-of-competition-testing programmes, the IHRB ensures that medications are used appropriately
  • Misuse of drugs in our horses is not tolerated with significant sanctions being imposed


The IHRB veterinary team provides a point of contact both out on the track and in training yards and in the office for individuals and organisations to flag issues around racehorse care, from individual cases to wider policy matters. /045 445 600/087 1925 366.

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