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A conversation with… TRSA equine welfare officer John Cornell

With our new equine welfare officer (EWO), John Cornell, having completed his first month in the role, we thought we would catch up with him to see how he was settling in and ask how he sees this new role working within the South Australian racing industry.

  1.  How have you settled into the new TRSA role, moving from McEvoy Mitchell Racing? 

It has been a very exciting change, and one that has been made easy thanks to the way everyone in the industry has embraced this role. It is obviously different now with the current COVID-19 restrictions in the office and on race day. However, I am planning to spend a lot of time out of the office, visiting racecourses, horse properties and stables.

  1. What does equine welfare mean to you, and TRSA?

Well, it is all about the horse. Every horse, from birth, has the right to be provided with the appropriate care. Equine welfare and racehorse retirement are often used interchangeably. However, racehorse retirement is one component of equine welfare. At TRSA, we will be implementing a number of equine-welfare strategies across the three areas of a racehorse’s life: pre-racing, during racing, and post racing.

  1. What have been your priorities since commencing the role?

Being a new role, it has been important to work through what developments have been made in this area, especially with the traceability rules and retirement reports, including the role of Racing Australia. It has also been a priority to establish many key relationships in my new role. By talking to industry stakeholders – including trainers, breeders, clubs, and their representative bodies – I can explain my role in detail, so that all participants can understand what we are trying to achieve.

  1. Have you met any resistance?

When starting a new role, especially in a critical compliance area such as equine welfare, I was expecting some challenges. I am in the fortunate position of having established long relationships in the racing industry and I think that has been a huge help in being received so well by all participants. There is no doubt that the vast majority of participants in the industry do the right thing, but if needed, I am here to not only respond to equine welfare concerns, but also educate participants in best practise.

  1. Do you see education as an important part of the role?

Education is critical in equine welfare, because there are so many elements to consider, and it is an area that continues to evolve rapidly. I do not believe I am here to tell trainers how to train their horses; I am here to assist those that might have questions around nutrition, care, traceability or retirement.

  1. Can you share your plans on racehorse retirement/re-homing?

The important element to realise is that not all horses are safe to re-home, nor is it always in the best welfare interests of the horse to be re-homed. This assessment will be a critical starting point for us to educate racehorse owners and trainers. Then, depending on the outcome of this assessment, our role will be to assist in the appropriate course of action resulting from the assessment, and hopefully that will be the re-homing and re-training of the retired racehorse. We have already met with a number of re-trainers at their properties, to build a network that we know have the capabilities and facilities to re-train and re-home a horse in an appropriate manner.

  1. So inspections will become a regular duty for you?

Absolutely. As well as the inspections we are conducting with re-trainers, the TRSA Board has recently approved a local rule providing me with the same access rights to those of a steward in regards to property, information etc. I will be conducting regular stable inspections, generally with a member of the stewards, looking at a range of things including facilities, treatment books, and feed, to name a few.

  1. Finally, what should people do if they are after more information on equine welfare, or would like to report a concern?

Equine welfare is something I am extremely passionate about, and I can talk about it all day. We have developed a reporting email address equinewelfare@theracessa.com.au so for anyone looking to report a concern, or after some assistance with equine welfare, I encourage them to get in touch.

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