Britain’s leading equine welfare organisations and charities are gathering together under one roof at the Aintree Grand National meeting to raise awareness of welfare issues in the wider equine population.
The British Horse Society, RSPCA, World Horse Welfare,and Retraining of Racehorses will be exhibiting and talking to racegoers under the marquee banner of The Horse Comes First at Aintree. More than 150,000 racegoers are expected to attend the three-day meeting and will have the opportunity to find out more about the excellent work each of the charities does in the field of horse welfare. On each day there will also be an equine vet on the stand to answer questions about all aspects of equine health.
A number of horse welfare groups have a shared concern about the emerging 'Horse Crisis' caused by a dramatic rise in the number of horses and ponies at risk of abandonment and neglect. These horses are not as fortunate as the elite equine athletes that receive first-class care and attention and there are concerns that too many horses are being bred indiscriminately, and the economic climate means owners are cutting back on vet costs, care, shelter and feed and as many as 7,000 horses could need homes. The welfare charities are working hard to highlight this situation and make sure horses are given the care, attention and the homes they need and deserve.
Organisations represented in the Horse Comes First stand at Aintree regularly work together on issues across the equine welfare landscape. Coming together at the Grand National meeting, they are looking forward to talking to the racing public about their respective areas of work and expertise, as well as providing practical advice to racegoers about caring for horses.
The Horse Comes First marquee will be located at Aintree adjacent to the Red Rum Garden, overlooking the Parade Ring and will be open over all three days of the Grand National meeting.
Andrew Tulloch, Director of Racing at Aintree Racecourse, said: “We are delighted that the leading equine welfare charities will be represented on The Horse Comes First stand at the Grand National meeting. Horse welfare is of paramount importance to Jockey Club Racecourses and Aintree and we want to promote not only what horseracing does in this sphere, but also the excellent work undertaken by the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, British Horse Society and Retraining of Racehorses among the wider equine population.
"Racehorses rarely want for anything in terms of the care they receive, but that sadly is not the case for all horses in Britain and we want to do everything we can to promote these excellent charities working on behalf all horses in the UK.”
Lee Hackett, Director of Policy at the British Horse Society, said: “The British Horse Society is delighted to be involved with the Horse Comes First initiative.
"As the UK’s largest equestrian charity and education provider we have been keeping a close eye on the measures that Aintree have taken to improve the safety of horses and riders taking part in races over the Grand National course.
"On Saturday the attention of the world will be on the elite equine athletes lining up for the National but we mustn’t forget the thousands of other British horses that are suffering and in desperate need of the help of the BHS and other equine welfare organisations. These horses don’t make the headlines like the Grand National winner will. Britain is facing a horse welfare crisis on an unprecedented scale so we are very grateful to Aintree for the opportunity to reach out to racegoers at this week’s meeting.”
Steve Carter, RSPCA Director for Wales, said: "The RSPCA is pleased to be part of this initiative which is a great chance to highlight the equine crisis currently faced by the major equine charities in England and Wales.
"The RSPCA took in more than 1,700 horses last year and we work with closely with World Horse Welfare and the British Horse Society, as well as other charities, to rescue and rehabilitate thousands of horses every year that have fallen victim to irresponsible ownership and neglect. We couldn't do what we do without the help of the public and we hope that the stand will help us to find new homes for some of the 800 horses in our care, as well as highlighting the crisis."
Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, said: "The Grand National is the ultimate steeplechase challenge for 40 horses every year, but this pales in comparison to the stark reality faced by thousands of horses across the UK every day who are not receiving the basic care they need.
"It seems so appropriate to highlight the current UK equine crisis, a man-made crisis, under the Horse Comes First banner at this pivotal event. We are deeply grateful to Aintree for the opportunity of showing tens of thousands of racegoers how they can help in this time of true equine need.”
Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of Retraining of Racehorses, said: “A small selection of the 8,000 horses that we have registered with our charity will be taking part in a parade in front of the Aintree crowd on Thursday and we are hugely grateful for the opportunity to talk to racegoers during the three days of the Grand National meeting about the wide range of activities and second careers that former racehorses can take part in after retiring from the sport.”
Andrew Tulloch added: "At Aintree, as a result of the activities we stage both on the racecourse and in the Equestrian Centre, we have developed long-standing and constructive relationships with each of the organisations.
"We consult regularly with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare regarding the Grand National, while at the Grand National meeting we stage a parade promoting the work Retraining of Racehorses. In addition, through The Jockey Club, we sponsor a series of classes for former racehorses, the final of which is held at Aintree at our July Showing Show.
"Furthermore, the expansion in use of Aintree's Equestrian Centre has also increased our liaison with The British Horse Society."