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BHA welfare reform – 17 steps to making the Cheltenham Festival safer

Jonathan Vine in News 13 Dec 2018
A horse is cooled down following its outing during the Cheltenham Festival.

The BHA announced this week that they would be taking measures to make the Cheltenham Festival safer, setting out a list of 17 steps that would be put in place for this year’s meeting.

Welfare is always a hot topic in National Hunt racing, and rightly so, as the safety of both horse and rider should be prioritised over anything else. In the wake of last year’s Cheltenham Festival, during which six horses tragically lost their lives, the BHA has been discussing ways they could make “the greatest show on turf” safer and, this week, they’ve finalised their list of changes.

North Hill Harvey, Some Plan and Dresden were all fatally injured in the Grand Annual and the BHA have moved to make the race safer, reducing the number of runners from 24 to 20. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle has also been under scrutiny. Jockey’s claimers will no longer be valid, in the hope that trainers will employ the most experienced rider they can find.

Obstacles across all three courses at Prestbury Park will be monitored individually and those boasting the worst faller rate will be modified accordingly. Individual trainers and jockeys will also come under scrutiny, if their horses perform exceptionally badly in faller studies, compared to their counterparts.

Medical examination forms must now be submitted ten days before the race, with a second medication form submitted on the day of the race to cover the previous ten days. Equine cooling fans will also be installed for all horses to use following the conclusion of a race.

Full List Of BHA Welfare Changes


1. All weight allowances for jockeys in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey's Handicap will be removed, encouraging trainers to book the most experienced jockey available.

2. All two-mile steeplechases will now be restricted to 20 runners, instead of the previous 24.

3. The racecourse executive must ensure that the ground at the start of the Festival is slower than good. 

4. JCR must continue to trial the one-fit padded hurdle, designed by Southampton University, with a view to using them during the Cheltenham Festival.

5. Trials must also continue for obstacle colouring schemes at schooling yards, as well as trailing said obstacles during JCR meetings.

6. Faller rates at individual obstacles on the Old, New and Cross Country courses at Cheltenham will continue to be monitored and changes to poorly performing obstacles will be made.

7. Trainers of all Cheltenham Festival entrants must complete a medication declaration form ten days before the race.

8. Pre-race inspections and examinations will now cover every runner in every race at Cheltenham and will require the submission of a second medication declaration form.

9. Post-mortem results will be examined alongside medical records from 45 days before the fatality.

10. Equine cooling fans will be installed for all participants to use when they return to the stables.

11. JCR and Cheltenham must support a major research project which will develop a predictive model for identifying risk factors during races.

12. BHA will conduct analysis of faller rates for individual trainers and jockeys.

13. Welfare risk management training to be integrated into educational modules for riders and trainers.

14. Rider's daily briefing to include increased focus on their responsibility in equine welfare situations.

15. Jockeys who have never ridden at Cheltenham must now take part in compulsory course walks with their jockey coach.

16. New rules relating to pulling up fatigued runners will be put under extra scrutiny and enforced to encourage positive and responsible behaviour.

17. Cheltenham to collaborate with BHA and media rights representatives to understand the correlation between time sectional and race pace to reduce risk.

For more information on this year's Festival see our Cheltenham news

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BHA welfare reform – 17 steps to making the Cheltenham Festival safer

The BHA announced this week that they would be taking measures to make the Cheltenham Festival safer, setting out a list of 17 steps that would be put in place for this year’s meeting on Tuesday 12th March.

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