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Britain’s First Thoroughbred Census: The Results Are In!

Spiteri Racing Retraining, 2 former racehorses on the beach. Credit Horse Welfare Board.

Last year, the Horse Welfare Board took a huge step forward in launching Britian’s First Thoroughbred Census. The aim of thiis pioneering initiative, undertaken by Hartpury University, was to bridge the intelligence gap between the estimated and actual British Thoroughbred population. From hear we can better understand the lives of horses who have left racing and take steps to further improve their welfare. And now, the results are in!

A huge number of responses

The Thoroughbred Census, spanning six months, garnered an impressive 8,256 responses from former racehorse owners, 5,566 were previously unrecorded. Thanks to the Census, we now believe there to be 33,600 former racehorses in Britain. When we combine this with information from the 13,000 Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) members and other equestrian associations, we believe we can now report on 80% of the former racehorses in this country. You can find a great Infographic of the stats here.

Age Breakdown

Previously, the life expectancy of a thoroughbred was believed to be 16 years (RoR, 2013.) But the results from the census suggest that these ex racehorses could actually be living much longer than that, increasing the life expectancy of the breed.

  • 6.1% aged 0-4 years
  • 62.9% aged 5-14 years
  • 31.2% aged 15+ years

Ownership Trends

Many people, myself included, believed that a lot of ex racehorses get passed around a lot. They might leave racing and struggle to find the right home for them and end up being sold on multiple times. However, the numbers suggest this isn’t the case for the majority of horses.

  • 87% with less than 3 owners in their lifetime.
  • 39% still with first owner post racing.

Versatility Beyond Racing

The census also showed just how versatile these former racehorses are with them fullfilling a number of different roles from Companion to Competition horse. Some of the key words owners used to explain why they own ex racehorses were; Versatility, Athleticism, Temperament and Talent.

A snipet of the Infographic provided by the census of what the horses are doing now.
A snipet of the Infographic provided by the census of what the horses are doing now. Credit: Horse Welfare Board. Full graphic viewable here.

Next Steps

Despite strides in post-racing care, challenges persist in maintaining accurate records and equine passport management. Future initiatives include targeted engagement with underrepresented equestrian communities and advocating for the development of a centralized equine database and the adoption of a digital equine identification system.

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