The Veterinary and Welfare Commission is the Integrity arm of the IHRA.
It is the body charged with setting and maintaining the good name of harness racing in Ireland from an animal welfare perspective, from a participant’s perspective and from the public’s perspective alike.
The VWC’s purpose and mission statement document is available elsewhere on the webpage and the constant aim of the VWC is to uphold the integrity of harness racing within the governance of the IHRA.
The VWC acts as an internal independent regulator within the IHRA and comprises personnel who have no connection or family connection with owning, breeding, training or racing Standardbred and trotting horses in Ireland.
The VWC is thankful to you the participants and especially to the Department of Agriculture and IHRA Board, for agreeing to ring-fence a sum of monies for integrity purposes in the recent past.
This has enabled the VWC to begin to carry out its core functions in a professional way without funding constraints.
You the members, will notice an immediate change, with the advent of VWC Veterinary Officers and assistants attending at each and every IHRA racing event on the island of Ireland.
This is but one small step in an overall change in harness racing in Ireland as the IHRA aims to grow and draw interest and funding into this developing sport. The overall aim is to improve your sport, such that each and every member of the IHRA can take pride in activities involving standardbred and trotting horses in Ireland.
You’ve been involved in the sport for many years, or you may be just joining it as it develops at this time; but you can be proud of recent changes and be proud of where the sport aims to be, as it puts structures in place for now and for future generations to come.
Part of that development involves the development of a focused integrity body within the sport. That body is your Veterinary and Welfare Commission, the VWC. Currently we invite personnel from outside the sport of harness racing to come and sit on the VWC.
You also have two IHRA Board Members currently on the Commission and as the sport develops, the VWC will develop an article of association and a constitution whereby those who sit on the Veterinary and Welfare Commission will be solely focused on VWC activities into the future.
That means that you on the ground, as an owner, breeder, carer, trainer or driver of a standardbred or trotting horse, will have recourse to a fair and independent integrity body where issues within the
sport can be examined on your behalf and guided forward in a fair and open manner. Animal welfare and care of the horse will always be at the core of every action and every decision of the VWC.
The remit of the IHRA and of the VWC covers animal care from birth to end of life. The IHRA is the keeper of the Standardbred and Trotting studbooks and the keeper of the register and racing records of registered horses in these Stud Books in Ireland.
Registered Standardbred and trotting horses in Ireland means registered with the IHRA. That registration covers the registered horse from its first steps to its last. Where a registered horse leaves the IHRA register, it may not return as a registered horse with the IHRA into the future, save at the discretion of the IHRA as a governing body.
The integrity arm of the IHRA, the VWC, covers integrity issues from birth to end of life of these horses and this gives you as IHRA members continued confidence that the name of the standardbred and trotting horse in Ireland is synonymous with integrity and with expected excellence of care.
That excellence extends to horse care and welfare around breeding, rearing, training, racing and lifetime activities of standardbred horses from their first steps to their last.
The integrity activities of the VWC and the strive for excellence of the VWC, also extends into other
aspects of harness racing. These include participant’s safety, owners and carer’s statute responsibility, fair play around the sport, public confidence in the sport and public confidence in the education around the merits and methods of correct husbandry in Ireland.
The VWC’s recently funded activities now means that integrity sampling has taken a step for the better. Samples are taken on racedays and involves checking for the presence or absence of normal equine medicines that are legitimately used in horse care. Such products are part of a normal
dispensary of veterinary medications that any animal may need from time to time but that should have completed their course and be clear from the horse’s system, up to three days before a race.
The integrity sampling is also focused at checking for the presence of substances that should not be used in the normal veterinary care of a horse. These are termed banned substances.
Thankfully to date, no such banned (prohibited) substances have been discovered in Standardbred or trotting horses registered with the IHRA.
Some legitimate medicines were discovered in the first tranche of testing under this new regime and as trainers correct their post-medication clearance times, the VWC expects less and less of these positives to be discovered going forward. The VWC took cognisance of the medicines records of the carers of the horses and accepts that these are early discoveries under this new ramped-up testing regime. The lower fines and sanction reflect this consideration by the VWC Hearing Panel and this is
demonstrated below in the brief reports of the Hearing’s outcomes.
The respondent in each of the Hearings was required to cover the cost of their racing test, the cost of the Hearing and the cost of the subsequent clearance screen sample in addition to the fine as listed below.
The leniency of the sanctions will not be reflected in future Hearings and the VWC would like to remind all IHRA members of two important points at this time. First and foremost, all IHRA members are required to make use of the mobile telephone app. that simplifies the recording of all medication
administered to registered IHRA horses.
If you haven’t yet had the VWC Medirecord app. put on your phone, then please make contact directly with the VWC office by email email@example.com or by contacting the IHRA offices and asking to be contacted by the VWC to install the app. on your mobile phone.
Secondly, the VWC wishes to point out to all IHRA members that this Department of Agriculture and
IHRA co-funded sampling and visitations regime will expect more vigilant adherence to clearance times for racing horses on race days and will expect to see full avoidance of inappropriate substance use in IHRA-registered horses.
Currently the integrity sampling has been carried out on racing horses only, with specific emphasis on winners of races selected randomly before the off of the first race of any day’s racing.
That sampling also includes the sampling of any horses with unusual performances as identified by the VWC track stewards on the day.
The sampling will extend to all races and to other placings as the programme widens.
The Department of Agriculture and IHRA Board have added funding to the VWC budget to cover yard visitations in addition to raceday veterinary presence. This covers registered standardbred and trotting horses kept at premises in Ireland, from birth to retired horses at the end of their career. It covers foals, yearlings, breeding stock, racing stock (both in and out of training) and covers the registered population on the island of Ireland.
The yard visitations will check the horse-carer’s medicines records on the VWC Medirecord mobile app. as well as the care and husbandry conditions of the horses that are linked with that owner or carer in accordance with IHRA records.
All of the above activities are aimed at improving the integrity of the sport of harness racing in this country. Those improvements will widen to include safety aspects of racing for the horses and drivers alike and will also widen to give the general public every confidence that harness racing is
governed correctly, with integrity, fairness, safety and participants enjoyment throughout.
The VWC will issue regular updates as part of its education remit and again reiterates that the VWC is there to ensure that you, the paid-up IHRA member, can expect a fair and honest interaction as you engage with the sport of Harness Racing as governed by the IHRA.
Peadar Ó Scanaill. MVB. Chairman of the Veterinary and Welfare Commission on behalf of the IHRA