New path on the quest to keep horses healthy

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A new screening program is being trialed to gain a deeper understanding of potential health issues in retired racehorses in the hope of preventing them.

Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) recently began a Preventive Health Care Screening program in partnership with Murdoch University Veterinary School.

RWWA Head of Animal Wellbeing Dr Anna Smet said the trial was part of the ongoing commitment to expand the range of health management programs for horses in the Off The Track WA Retraining Program and improve husbandry.

“The initiative employs evidence-based assessment and screening tools to better understand baseline health in retired racehorses, from which tailored management programs can be delivered to positively impact their wellbeing as they transition to retraining and second careers,” Anna said.

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“Specifically, the trial investigates the gastric health of all retired racehorses entering the Off the Track WA Retraining Program and assesses foot balance with x-rays for horses that require it. These assessments were chosen because, historically, they represent areas which may affect racehorses and their transition to retirement.

“The initiative is an excellent learning opportunity for Murdoch undergraduate veterinary students, who are assisting the equine veterinarians with the screening assessments.

“Life after racing programs are constantly evolving, with international racing authorities embracing their role in ensuring well managed and financially supported programs are available to transition horses successfully from racing to other equestrian pursuits.”

Following the trial period, RWWA will assess the impact of the initiative on horse wellbeing and the long-term goals of Off the Track WA. If it is shown to have a positive impact on welfare outcomes for horses in the retraining program, RWWA will consider permanent adoption of the Preventive Health Care Screening.