Click the FAQ’s below to read the answers:
- Why is BTRC in a funding crisis?
- Why did BTRC not sign a further contract with RoR to care for vulnerable horses in 2018?
- Why has it taken 4 years for BTRC to react?
- Why has BTRC suddenly decided to go public?
- Why has the BTRC remained silent since publishing the initial information on the crisis?
- What is BTRC doing to resolve the situation so that the Charity can continue its vital aftercare work?
- How can you help BTRC?
The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre (BTRC) was established in 1991 and from then until 2000 the charity was funded directly by their charitable activities and public donations. In 2000 the racing industry recognised the importance of BTRC’s work and the need to provide a safety net for retired racehorses. The industry therefore established the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR). This charity was to focus on supporting retired racehorses including providing funds for centres that housed and rehabilitated horses that were found to be in a vulnerable state. The RoR collected the funds from stakeholders within racing and distributed this money to the charities that were providing the care for retired racehorses in the Vulnerable Horse Scheme (VHS). From 2001- 2014 BTRC received quarterly payments averaging £85k annually.
In 2015, the RoR introduced a new funding mechanism for centres who cared for Thoroughbreds in the RoR’s VHS. The funding changed from the standard quarterly payments which were in place from 2001 to payments per horse and each centre was required to sign a new contract. Although BTRC had concerns the charity signed a contract on the basis that they would be given the opportunity to discuss any issues at the time of the contract renewal.
Why is BTRC in a funding crisis?
BTRC has been an established charity for over 30 years and for 26 of those years the Centre had a sustainable funding model until the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) imposed changes in 2015 to the industry funded RoR Vulnerable Horse Scheme (VHS) that acts as a safety net for any retired racehorse that falls on hard times.
The whole dispute started due to these changes and BTRC having equine welfare and operational concerns (further information in question 2) regarding the RoR’s VHS.
The BTRC stopped receiving funding from RoR to care for vulnerable Horses in June 2018.*
The Centre has continued to operate and provide care for over one hundred vulnerable horses since that time by utilising its charitable reserves that have been maintained – in line with good practice – over the last 26 years. However, these reserves are now depleted and BTRC urgently need funding.
It should be noted that during the COVID-19 crisis BTRC received financial support from the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Racing Foundation Covid-19 relief fund – we are extremely thankful to the industry for this support.
*Apart from one back payment in 2020 for vulnerable horses BTRC assisted between 2015-2018, a grant for temporary stables and a 12-month £50,000 loan repayable at the end of 2022.
Why did BTRC not sign a further contract with RoR to care for vulnerable horses in 2018?
BTRC did not sign a new updated contract in 2018 due to equine welfare and operational concerns.
Equine Welfare: BTRC believed the contract was flawed and the T&Cs could lead to equine welfare issues. In BTRC’s opinion the contract:
• Lacked sufficient checks and monitoring of horses that were being funded by the industry.
• Was not sufficiently robust and that “loop-holes” and the “perverse incentives” could be exploited.
• Unqualified individuals were being given funding to care for vulnerable horses.
• Commercial horse dealers, retrainers and individuals were profiting from the scheme. As the RoR permitted these vulnerable horses to be sold therefore these individuals were technically being paid twice per horse – once for taking it and then again by selling it. By selling these horses it could mean that that a horse could become vulnerable again in the future and be passed around from pillar to post. Commercial operations have different incentives to charities.
• RoR will only support a Thoroughbred if it has been in training, they do not recognise all Thoroughbreds. BTRC believes all Thoroughbreds that are bred for the sport of racing should be supported if they are found in a vulnerable state.
• The contract limited financial support to 15 horses per year even though the BTRC could help more than double that number.
• BTRC was not, in their opinion, given sufficient time and support to change a funding model that had been in place for 15 years from 2001-2015.
• BTRC is unique in the size of operation and moving from regular payments to ad hoc payments was problematic and difficult to manage cashflow and forecast a budget.
In short, BTRC sought to have higher standards, more frequent checks and that those being entrusted with vulnerable horses were qualified professional individuals whose work could be correctly monitored and ultimately be accountable for the horses in their care. BTRC highlighted their concerns to RoR at the time. However, although they were acknowledged, they were not acted upon and the contract was not substantially changed.
Unfortunately, in 2018 BTRC’s worst fears become reality when Anette Nally an individual who was on the approved RoR rehoming list for vulnerable horses and who had received £5,000 in 2017 and a further £8,500 in 2018 from RoR to care for vulnerable horses, was arrested and subsequently jailed for 26 weeks after she was found guilty of animal cruelty and neglect of horses in her care, including six ex-racehorses. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-49609758). This sad event proved the BTRC’s concerns regarding the RoR VHS were legitimate, but still no changes were made.
More recently, there is evidence of horses going through the system and being sold without the correct clinical and physical assessments to determine whether they are suitable for a career as an equestrian horse and therefore ending up once again being vulnerable.
Why has it taken four years for BTRC to react?
BTRC have worked closely with the Racing industry and patiently waited for:
• BHA to recruit a Director of Equine Health and Welfare
• Cheltenham review to be completed
• Goodfellow aftercare funding review to be completed
• Equine Flu crisis to pass
• Horse Welfare Board to be established
• Horse Welfare Board strategy ‘A Life Well Lived’ to be published
• Kirby aftercare review to be completed
• Aftercare Funding review to be published
• RoR to deliver the Aftercare funding recommendations
• Horse Welfare to recruit an Aftercare Project Lead
• RoR to deliver the Aftercare funding recommendations for a second time
It can be argued that BTRC should have given up waiting well before now, but the charity honestly believed, and were repeatedly given reassurances from the racing industry that racing would eventually sort everything out and BTRC just had to be patient.
However, over four years have passed and still Britain does not have a published aftercare funding strategy. Unlike all the other top jurisdictions around the world who have an aftercare funding strategy in place.
Why have BTRC suddenly decided to go public?
BTRC believed that the racing industry wanted to work with them to help deliver the Aftercare recommendations and in particular to protect vulnerable Thoroughbreds. But on 26th July 2022, in a meeting with the RoR and in the presence of the Horse Welfare Board, BTRC presented all of the different activities they currently deliver including their:
• Vulnerable Horse Programme
• 24/7 emergency helpline
• Rehabilitation and retraining programme for horses straight off the track
• Extensive national and international work placement programme
• Educational work including visits to colleges and Universities
• Community engagement including visits to nursing homes and schools
BTRC also included further income generating opportunities and ways in which BTRC could diversify to become more sustainable. However, RoR rejected funding any of BTRC’s activities and explained there was nothing that the BTRC currently offers, or could offer in the future, that the RoR or the British Racing Industry needs and therefore no funding would be available.
On 3rd August 2022, BTRC’s Board of Trustees met with the Horse Welfare Board and they confirmed that the RoR and industry could not support the Centre.
On 5th August 2022, BTRC published a Press Release from BTRC’s Chairman, John Sexton regarding the funding crisis.
Why has the BTRC remained silent since publishing the initial information on the crisis?
BTRC’s Chairman published a press release on 5th August and a statement on the 12th August, BTRC received notification that RoR were seeking to take legal action against BTRC.
For 31 years, the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre has always put the interests of the horses first. Every penny the Charity receives is spent with the one and only aim of helping vulnerable thoroughbreds.
This mission has provided more than 1,000 horses with a chance they might otherwise have been denied, and a lifelong safety net, but it has also landed us in a challenging situation as the industry has now suggested that we fund our activities by diversifying. If we do not become self-funding we die.
As, over recent weeks all avenues of support were closed to us and even our offers of how we might best diversify were rejected, we were left with no option other than to draw public attention to our financial plight in the hope that with your help we might Save The BTRC.
We have been gratified by the support we have received, both from people within the racing industry and outside it and hope that by withdrawing the Press Release and statement as a goodwill gesture then we can bring a speedy end to the threat of legal action and so ensure that no charitable funds are wasted on fighting legal battles and prevent racing’s reputation being damaged any further.
What is BTRC doing to resolve the situation so that the Charity can continue its vital aftercare work?
BTRC are currently working with the industry to find a solution to the funding problem.
The BTRC Petition (https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-british-horse-racing-industry-abandoning-retired-racehorses) has 35,000 signatures [at the time of writing] supporting that the British Racing Industry should provide adequate funds to BTRC. This proves that the public care about retired racehorse welfare and it is now time for Aftercare funding to become the top priority for Racing.
Racing discusses how the horse and jockey are equal athletes and racing is a partnership between the two. However, the industry has THREE purpose built rehabilitation centres for jockeys/staff; Oaksey House in Lambourn, Jack Berry House in Malton and Peter O’Sullevan House in Newmarket, but the racehorse has ZERO.
Furthermore, racing welfare and other charities provide mental and physical health care to retired racing staff that fall on hard times, but again zero for retired horses.
The BTRC has offered its facilities to the racing industry, to become that purpose-built facility, for retired racehorses, but the industry has turned its back opening the sport to the charge that racehorses and jockeys/staff are NOT treated equally, and the industry is still exploiting the horse and refusing to invest in aftercare in a meaningful way.
However, Britain will never have a constant, sustainable and operational funding strategy until there is stakeholder agreement on how that money is to be spent via a transparent and accountable aftercare framework including both promotional and welfare activities.
In the opinion of BTRC, it is now time for Aftercare funding to become the top priority for British Racing.
How can you help BTRC?
1. Please pledge your support by signing our petition: https://chng.it/FYXD8vvG
2. Make a one off donation to our ‘Save the BTRC’ campaign to help us continue our vital work with horses: https://justgiving.com/campaign/savethebtrc
3. Become a Friend of the BTRC – make a regular monthly donation to the BTRC from a minimum of £1 a month up to whatever you want to give. Sign up here.
4. Follow us on social media: @thebtrc (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn)