The Royal Treatment: Life in a racing yard

A new video has been launched today by the sport’s Horse Comes First campaign.

The video goes behind the scenes at the yard of William Haggas and showcases the remarkable facilities and dedication of the people who care for horses every day. While the video was filmed at one of the country’s top yards, the message is clear that all of the people who work in racing have the welfare of horses as their number one priority.

Watch the video here

The Horse Comes First campaign is the sport’s project to raise awareness of the high welfare standards that exist within British racing and improve the wider public’s perception of the sport. The NTF is a member of this campaign and we see it as extremely important – the sport often comes under attack for its welfare standards, the Horse Comes First is all about us going on the front foot and showing the public, government, welfare organisations and other influencers that the sport has a welfare record to be proud of.


The importance of good practice and detailed medication records

If you are unfortunate enough to have a positive ‘dope’ test, that is an automatic breach of the BHA equine anti-doping rules (EADR) as there is strict liability for a positive sample.

What penalty may be imposed depends upon whether the substance was intentionally administered (whether or not by someone connected with you) and whether you as the trainer had taken all reasonable precautions to avoid violating the rule.

The burden of proof is upon the trainer. The steps you take in your yard to avoid contamination and cross contamination will be closely scrutinised by the BHA Disciplinary Panel to help them decide if you have established that it was a) not intentional administration and b) you have met the “all reasonable precautions” test.

What are reasonable precautions will vary from yard to yard – guidance is available on the NTF website.

This area of the website has been updated to include templates policies covering human medication, equine medication and feedstuffs for yards to adapt to suit their own needs.

It is important to show that you

  • have risk assessed your yard
  • put procedures in place
  • have someone to check those procedures are being followed and
  • that if they are not, steps are taken to ensure that they are.

Good practice includes training upon yard hygiene and bio-security practices as part of an employee’s induction. Training should be refreshed and updated as necessary.

There have been a number of positive tests for cetirizine, which is commonly found in hay fever and anti-allergy tablets. This is one example of many over the counter remedies that contain prohibited substances. It is important to ensure that your staff are aware of this and exercise extreme care if taking any medication of any description.

Your medication records book will also be examined by the BHA and is likely to form part of the evidence before the Disciplinary Panel.

A failure to keep proper records can also be a separate breach of the Rule (C) 13 in addition to the Equine Anti-Doping breach, with the penalty range of between £250 – £2,000.

All treatments must be recorded and it is important to ensure that covers all the information required by the rule.   The record does not have to be in the from of the NTF medication book though that is, of course, an easy format to use with columns for all the information required. A copy of the rule setting out the duty to keep records can be found at

Any queries relating to keeping of medication records, either contact the NTF ( or the BHA (

BHA Notice – Bisphosphonates

The following Rule was brought into effect on 10 August 2017:

Schedule (B)3 – Requirements for horse to run

11B The horse must not have been administered

11.B.1 any bisphosphonate under the age of three years and six months as determined by its recorded date of birth, or

11.B.2 any bisphosphonate on the day of the race or on any of the 30 days before the day of the race in which the horse is declared to run.

A Notice regarding this amendment (New Stand-Down Period: Bisphosphonates) was published in July 2017, which included the following expectations regarding the use of bisphosphonates in horses racing or intending to race in Great Britain:

  • The product used should be licensed for horses in the UK;
  • There must be a diagnosis determined by a veterinary surgeon that supports the use of a bisphosphonate as an appropriate treatment; and
  • The bisphosphonate must be administered by a veterinary surgeon.

The Rule is intended to cover the use of therapeutic bisphosphonates.

Gamma scintigraphy (bone scan) is a diagnostic imaging technique, which involves the injection of a radioactive substance that is bound to a bisphosphonate. The bisphosphonates used in gamma scintigraphy are administered at a low dose and are not licensed for use in horses in the UK. At present, there is no evidence to suggest that they have a therapeutic effect on the horse.

The BHA’s position is that the use of gamma scintigraphy, when advised by a veterinary surgeon, is in the best interests of the horse and to discourage such practice may be detrimental to the welfare of the horse. The BHA’s approach is that, at its discretion, it will implement an exception to Schedule (B)3 paragraph 11 B for the use of bisphosphonates which are administered for the purposes of gamma scintigraphy in specific, documented cases. The exception permits both the administration of bisphosphonates to the horse under the age of three years and six months and bisphosphonates administered to the horse within 30 days of a race in which the horse is declared to run (however the exception will not permit bisphosphonates administered to the horse for gamma scintigraphy purposes on the day of the race).

It should be noted that any horse to which therapeutic bisphosphonates are administered under the age of three years and six months will not be qualified to run under the BHA Rules of Racing at any point in its life.

NTF statement on Hughie Morrison result

The Disciplinary Panel’s decision to fine rather than ban Hughie Morrison is in the NTF’s opinion a fair and balanced result on the evidence.

The NTF has said it before but it bears repeating that this and other cases involving prohibited substance have left trainers feeling very vulnerable. We are pleased that the Disciplinary Panel, while having regard to the requirement for strict liability, is taking a broader view of the issues and not accepting without question the arguments run by the BHA’s legal team. We believe the Panel’s approach is the right one for the best interests of the sport.

Nothing in our statement should lead to any doubt that the NTF supports racing’s anti-doping policy generally and zero tolerance of anabolic steroids. However, today the NTF is calling for the BHA to review aspects of its management of anti-doping regulation. There are a number of issues but one is that it is not good enough for the regulator to hide behind trainers’ strict liability to avoid a thorough investigation, particularly when the stakes are as high as they were in this case.. The BHA requires not only the confidence of the public in the integrity of racing but also the confidence of its participants that they will be treated with sufficient care in the course of an investigation. The BHA’s reason for not conducting a hair test on Our Little Sister does not stand up to scrutiny.

A point that bears on the BHA’s duty of care to defendants is that in spite of the recent announcement of a route to pro bono legal representation, there are very few trainers who could afford to go to the lengths Hughie Morrison could to mount the defence he needed. NTF members have access to our legal expenses insurance scheme but even that is not able to fully cover very costly litigation.

Rupert Arnold

Strangles can be eradicated – with the Thoroughbred industry leading the way

The Strangles Workshop recently held at the fabulous Animal Health Trust (AHT) Visitor Centre provided a fascinating insight into the complex and ground breaking disease surveillance and research underway into this disease. Strangles is endemic across most of the world, with evidence that more than 600 outbreaks are identified annually in the UK alone, but thankfully very few of these occur in British racehorses.

New research at the AHT, which was presented at the meeting, tracked the international spread of Streptococcus equi, the cause of strangles, through 22 countries from around the World. “Our results showed that European countries generously share their populations of Streptococcus equi, but we also saw exchange of strains in the UK with the USA, South America, Australia and the United Arab Emirates” explained Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology at the AHT. “We believe that outwardly healthy persistently infected ‘carrier’ horses could be to blame for the international transport of strangles.” Recognising the risks of introducing strangles via the international transport of horses, the authorities in Dubai now insist on the mandatory testing of blood samples from horses for exposure to strangles pre-export. Dr. Waller said “Early findings indicate that this intervention has helped to identify carriers before they had the opportunity to introduce strangles to Dubai, preventing new outbreaks and breaking the cycle of disease.”

Although strangles is complex, the meeting consistently delivered this strong message “Strangles can be prevented.” Dr Richard Newton, Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at the AHT described methods to prevent strangles from getting into a yard and to eradicate it should the worst happen. Dr Newton explained; “Although strangles is uncommon among racehorses in training, it is a disease, along with equine influenza and neurological equine herpes virus, which requires trainers to immediately notify the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) so that effective steps can be taken to prevent its spread through the racing network. The rarity of strangles in racing is undoubtedly linked to the zero-tolerance that the industry has to it, such that trainers, their vets and the BHA all work closely together to control and eradicate the disease when it occurs.” Dr Newton continued, “It is important that racing remains vigilant and in particular becomes open to adopting wider preventive strategies such as quarantining and screening batches of horses entering training for the first time and those returning from events, such as international meetings, where there may be a heightened risk of introducing a range of infectious diseases including strangles.”


For further information, please contact: Rebecca Calver, AHT press office, 01638 751000 ext. 1572


The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is the UK’s leading veterinary and scientific research charity, dedicated to the health and wellbeing of dogs, cats and horses.  It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research, but also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Throughout 2017, the AHT is celebrating its 75th Anniversary – that’s 75 years of leading science and care for animals. Visit the website


New form of examination to check suitability to race

The way in which the BHA checks that certain horses are fit to race is set to change and this will replace the “poor movers list”. The new method is called a “suitability to race examination”. It has been used informally over the last three months to assess the practicalities and gain responses from trainers. As a result of positive feedback these examinations will be rolled out on a permanent basis across all affected horses and therefore remove the poor movers list and protocol.

The reason for instigating this STR examination is to allow trainers and owners, their stable vets, and BHA vets to be confident that horses that arrive at the races with a history of idiosyncratic gaits will be able to race. It removes the problem of withdrawing horses on raceday once they have arrived at that racecourse because they are deemed at trot up to be lame. It also allows the BHA Veterinary Officers (VO) to have confidence that these horses have gaits that do not represent on-going pathology changes which could result in a catastrophic injury and hence welfare issues.

How it works:

  • Horses are identified by BHA VOs as having consistent abnormal gaits or have a history of being examined and possibly withdrawn on raceday a number of times because of their gait movements.
  • The trainer is notified by letter that their horse is to be subject to a STR examination because of one of those criteria.
  • The examination is to occur at the trainer’s stables and not on race day when the horse may be entered to race.
  • The trainer has the option to have his/her stable veterinary surgeon present when the examination takes place. There will also be a full review of the horse’s history and its medication records.
  • The examination consists of two stages: an examination, including a trot up which will be video recorded, before the horse undertakes a gallop and a further examination of the horse after it has completed a gallop.
  • Any horse presented for a STR examination may be drug tested in accordance with the Rules of Racing.
  • If the horse is passed as suitable to race, it may be entered and race as normal. It will be subject to on-going random VO checks on its gait on race days as it continues to race. If there is a deterioration in its action or a change in gait in future, it may be subject to a repeated STR examination, otherwise it continues to race as a normal racehorse.
  • If the horse is deemed unsuitable to race at any point by the VO, it may not be declared for a race until it has completed a satisfactory STR examination.
  • If there is a disagreement on the outcome of this initial examination a Senior Raceday Veterinarian will accompany the VO on the subsequent examination.

This is a significant welfare initiative and, although it will never completely stop race day catastrophic injuries, it should give both the industry and the general public confidence that welfare is the prime focus of the racing industry.

Promoting ‘The Horse Comes First’ at Epsom Open Day and Newmarket Open Weekend

The NTF is a supporter of The Horse Comes First, an industry-wide initiative which many trainers will be familiar with. The Horse Comes First promotes and raises awareness of the high standards of equine welfare in the sport. The initiative aims to improve understanding of the care given to our horses throughout and after their careers in racing.

The Epsom Trainers’ Open Day on Monday 28th August and Newmarket Open Weekend on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September are great opportunities for trainers to engage with The Horse Comes First and share the positive messaging about the high levels of welfare with visitors to yards. Here’s how trainers can get involved.

HCF logo

British Racing has a track record to be proud of: British Racing is among the world’s best regulated animal activities. The sport employs over 6,000 people to provide care and attention for the 14,000 horses in training, providing them with a level of care and a quality of life that is virtually unsurpassed by any other domesticated animal.

British Racing has a duty of care to its horses: Since the year 2000, British Racing has invested £32 million in veterinary research and education.

British Racing is open and transparent: Within the last 20 years, the equine fatality rate in British Racing has fallen by one-third, from 0.3% to 0.2% of runners.

Further information and messaging from The Horse Comes First can be found on its website ( and we welcome you to share the messaging as you show visitors around your yards.