Here for the Horses
When Jen Hughes arrived in Australia from London, having grown up in Glasgow, she brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and passion that has helped to shape the way the Victorian thoroughbred industry prioritises equine welfare.
Racing Victoria Update | Here for the Horses documentary
All programs have made an impact, but the RESET program is one of the earliest established initiatives and has really filled a gap. It provides direct support for those horses that are sound and have good prospects, but have not been successful in transitioning to a second career outside of racing so far.
“Some racehorses rehome themselves, they are the ones immediately snapped up for equestrian. However, this isn’t the reality for all horses, and why RESET provides an important opportunity for those horses that have struggled to transition to a new home the chance to find their calling post-racing,” she said.
Hughes acknowledges that there are still some in the industry that do break the rules and fail to do everything they should to keep the horse happy and content, but she stresses that it is a very small group.
“Of course, it’s this tiny minority that brings everyone else down, and I know breeders, owners and trainers, or for that matter, everyone doing the right thing is bitterly disappointed when stories of poor welfare come to the surface,” she said.
Encouraging more people to join the online OTT Community is something that Hughes is excited about, with the aim of understanding more about what horses are doing in their careers post-racing and how programs can be developed to support them.
“It’s exciting when you develop a plan and start to see the industry buying in and wanting to be a part of it. We are building a framework around the good work participants were already doing and developing initiatives that support them and plug any gaps” she said.
However, Hughes stresses that her work is far from done and highlighted that retirement farms are the next step in an ongoing process. Acknowledged Retirement Farms will be introduced, as the post-racing framework continues to develop.
It is this relentless drive to identify, scrutinise and improve all aspects of the horse’s lifecycle that has made Hughes so instrumental in advancing the equine welfare approach in Australia.
“We know this quest for improved equine welfare is a long play, we need to establish programs and initiatives that will stand the test of time and be sustainable for the racing industry long after I’m working at Racing Victoria. ” she said.
For this reason, Hughes has undertaken a Masters in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law, to advance her own knowledge in pursuit of delivering the best possible welfare outcomes for Victorian horses.
For more information on Racing Victoria’s latest Equine Welfare initiatives, including those discussed in this article, go to ottcommunity.com.au