Racing Victoria (RV) signalled its commitment to the welfare of racehorses leaving the industry when it launched its Off The Track (OTT) program in 2012. Since then, thousands of retired racehorses have gone on to participate in a range of equestrian sports.
RV has steadily expanded its welfare initiatives to become world leaders in making sure ex-racehorses have the best life after racing. It has accredited and supported more than 50 RV Acknowledged Retrainers, created a number of programs to assist horses with differing circumstances, built up an extensive OTT Community, and most importantly, is backing its ambitions with deep pockets.
In 2019, RV released the industry’s ground-breaking three-year Equine Welfare Strategic Plan that included $25 million to be focused largely on the post-racing care of retired racehorses. To help deliver the programs and projects that underpin the action plan, a dedicated Equine Welfare team was formed. The seven-strong, all-women team have all loved horses as long as they can remember, and together they are channelling their passion into programs that are benefitting the lives of Thoroughbreds.
MEET THE TEAM
JENNIFER HUGHES, General Manager – Equine Welfare
At the core of the Equine Welfare team is Jennifer Hughes. “As long as I can remember I have loved horses,” says Jen, who received six riding lessons for her sixth birthday, was given her first pony at age 10 and hasn’t stopped since. Following school she completed a degree in Equine Sports Science in the UK. “Halfway through, I realised that if I wanted to work professionally with horses, racing was probably the way to go,” she recalls. Partway through her degree, she worked as an orthopaedic technician and an emergency veterinary nurse at Edinburgh Veterinary School, an experience she describes as one of the best years of her life. She also completed a two-week ‘College Conversion Course’ at the Northern Racing College, aimed at attracting equine students to the racing industry.
For eight years, Jen worked at the British Horse Racing Authority in the Integrity department and then the Projects department, both positions that included equine welfare aspects; part of the Projects’ role included working alongside an external charity, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR). The opportunity then arose to come to RV for a ten-week secondment: “I came over in 2014 to do a comparison study of anti-doping practices in RV versus the UK, and never left.” Jen stayed on in an intelligence and integrity role, which evolved to a licensing and compliance role, before she finally landed in equine welfare three years ago to lead the new team.