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.

The IHRB touches equine welfare via one specific Rule….

R148. (i) A Trainer shall be responsible (except where otherwise provided in these Rules) for everything connected with the welfare, training and running of all Horses under the care of that Trainer and shall be liable to any sanction available to the Stewards, the Referrals Committee, the Licensing Committee or the Appeals Body, as the case may be, unless the Trainer provides a satisfactory explanation.

..and a host of others…

  • Gear – eg. tongue tie
  • Careless riding, interference (214)
  • Skin disease (148 v(a)
  • Course construction (53,54, R9)
  • Inspecting and testing on licensed premises (20 xviii)
  • Doping of horses 1(ii), 18, 20(v)(xviii), 21, 96,148, 273(i)
  • Equine influenza vaccinations (90, 91)
  • Adequate time of arrival pre-race (19, 90)
  • Responsible use of [equine] Medicines (1, N25)
  • Haemorrhage (213)
  • Binding on tail (211)
  • Control of substances in stable yard (R9)
  • Control on joint injections (87)
  • Control on ‘de-nerving’ or neurectomy (87)
  • Control of horse shoes (R16)
  • Horse falling (225)
  • Control of procedures close to racing – tubing, vaccination (87)
  • Correct firearm for vets (humane killer) (32)
  • Restrictions on running pregnant mare (82)
  • Control of horse in stable yard (R9)
  • Whip specification (R10)

These Rules are put into operations alongside processes by expert horsemen and women, on track and off it, for example,

On track,

  • Pre-race veterinary examinations – risk-based and ‘whole card’
  • 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 from the SI team
  • 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 veterinary injury database
  • Point of contact for welfare concerns from public, others
  • Proactive education in welfare – eg. ‘Reducing fracture’ seminar 2018
  • 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.

Here are 5 ways in which the IHRB protects horse welfare in its work:

  1. Pre-race veterinary inspections on track – reducing risk every day
  • Every runner is inspected by the IHRB’s independent regulatory veterinary team before they run, using a veterinary database to identify those horses which need further examination.
  • In addition to this, whole card pre-race veterinary inspections have been carried out on a risk basis since 2014. These,
  • identify horses whose condition has changed for whatever reason since they were last seen by their trainer and time of arrival at the racecourse (the ‘knock in the box’ scenario) – it is in everyone’s interests that they are flagged, checked and cleared or they run another day.
  • identify those horses which have a clinical abnormality that may not be an issue in terms of increasing risk of their injury but once identified can trigger a conversation between the IHRB, trainer and their veterinary surgeon. These horses go onto the veterinary database.
  • identify those horses which for one reason or another are not in a condition fit to race. Clearly, the vast majority of trainers plan and aim to have their horses fit to race on the day but should a horse be inappropriately entered to run, he will be identified during a pre-race inspection.
  1. Stable Inspections – a safety net for racehorse care at home
  • IHRB veterinary teams lead these, completing a detailed audit of every horse on the premises, their medication records, their passports and their clinical condition.
  • The emphasis is on education and ‘prevention being better than cure’ - follow up includes feedback to trainers, and where necessary contact with veterinary surgeons.
  • The process is linked to licensing to ensure that where needed regulatory action is taken.
  1. Equine fatal injury in Ireland – data analysis to reduce risk going forwards
  • Racing involves an element of risk of injury to horse (and human).
  • We want to understand those risks because if we understand them, we can try to reduce them.
  • Data collected from 2007 to present on track injuries has been analysed.
  • Early results indicate that fatal injury rates and the types of injury involved in Ireland are similar to those reported in other jurisdictions, given the types of racing that we have.
  • Horse, trainer and racecourse related risk factors are being explored.
  • Results will first be worked through with those directly involved because they will add insight and are the right people to make any changes indicated.
  • The work will be published when ready.
  1. Anti-Doping programme – right medicine at the right time but drugs not tolerated

Proper use of medication is important in racehorse care – just like human athletes, horses may need medication at times whilst in training. The IHRB ensures through its anti-doping and out-of-competition-testing programmes that medications are used appropriately.

Misuse of drugs in our horses is not tolerated – significant sanctions including life-time bans are in operation to deter, but if necessary deal with, this.

  1. Point of contact – somewhere to go for help with racehorse care concerns

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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