Applies to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse
As part of its continued commitment to protect Ontario’s racehorses and enhance the integrity of racing, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has made the following changes within the Rules of Racing to promote the welfare of equine athletes.
Please see the changes to the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing below.
Effective Date: June 5, 2023
What is changing: A new rule and a revision to the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing to promote safe and acceptable loading practices in the starting gate, for both horses and starting gate personnel. The change aims to standardize strong welfare practices already in place across the industry. The new rule will prohibit any aspect of a starting gate personnel’s technique, equipment, method and/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 will also specifically prohibit the use of ear tongs and buggy whips.
What to expect: The AGCO has developed a new policy guideline outlining the appropriate uses of certain loading practices and equipment that can aid in the safety of starting gate personnel, handler, horse and jockey. The guidelines also list possible alternative loading practices and equipment to provide flexibility for racetracks to develop their own policies. Emphasis is placed on additional conditioning and gate training of horses.
Alternative Starting Gate Practices*
Please see Alternative Starting Gate Practices Guidelines for full details.
To promote the welfare of equine and human athletes at the starting gate, the AGCO has outlined some examples of acceptable loading practices and equipment that racetracks may adopt as part of their business 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 types of equipment include:
- “Monty Roberts Rugs” or barrier blankets
*Please note that this list is not exhaustive and may be amended at a future date.
Changes to the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing
A new rule is being added in Chapter 17: The Starter, of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing stating:
17.02.01. When attempting to place a horse in the starting gate, the starting gate personnel shall not mistreat horses in any manner that may be contrary to a horse’s welfare. 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 be contrary to a horse’s welfare, shall be a violation. Prohibited equipment includes, but is not limited to, buggy whips and ear tongs.
There will also be a revision to rule 17.03 of the Thoroughbred Rules of Racing to allow more flexibility with respect to how horses are loaded in the starting gate, stating:
17.03. Horses shall take their positions in numerical order following a consistent pattern, unless otherwise approved by the Stewards.