Thursday, April 13, 2023

Applies to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse 

As of June 5, 2023 new Thoroughbred Rule 17.02.01 will prohibit any aspect of a starting gate personnel’s technique, equipment, and/or method or practice which, in the opinion of the Stewards, may cause harm to the horse or may be contrary to a horse’s welfare.  

This new rule supports the AGCO’s mandate to protect racehorses and the integrity of racing and was developed following consultation with horseperson representatives and racetrack management staff from across Ontario. 

The AGCO takes the welfare of racehorses very seriously and it recognizes that getting horses into the starting gate can be dangerous and certain tools or techniques, when used appropriately, can help in the safety of the handler, horse, and jockey. To promote the welfare of equine and human athletes at the starting gate the AGCO has outlined alternative loading practices and equipment that racetracks may adopt as part of their business practices. 

First and foremost, each racehorse must be conditioned appropriately for the starting gate and all permitted equipment, through appropriate and extensive gate training to ensure they are comfortable with loading equipment and practices. It is important that racetracks’ business practices focus on a high standard of gate training. To maintain high standards in training, racetracks may want to consider only loading horses in post-position order. As well, Starters have a duty, according to Thoroughbred Rules 17.04 and 17.05, to ensure that all horses entering in any race in Ontario have been thoroughly schooled in gate training and have resolved any recent issues leaving the gate on any race rack.  

However, there may be instances were even a well-trained horse may be difficult to load so racetracks may consider adopting any of these alternative loading practices. 

Alternative loading practices include: 

  • Only loading horses in post-position order 
  • Loading the horse backwards into the stall or without a rider 
  • Loading horses only two at a time into the starting gate 
  • Notifying trainers on the use of equipment on their horse at the starting gate to ensure the horse is familiar with the piece of equipment to mitigate potential injury 

 Alternative type of equipment includes: 

  • “Monty Roberts Rugs” or barrier blankets   

As racetracks continue to audit and adjust their starting gate training practices, they are encouraged to stay informed on industry best practices that minimize horse stress and injury and also maximize success. 

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. This policy is intended to allow flexibility in loading practices, provided they promote the welfare of human and equine athletes.  

The AGCO would like to thank stakeholders for their continued engagement on this and the other welfare changes. 

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