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Melanie Porter November 27, 2023 3 min read
Board of the British Horseracing Authority Renews Start Rules
The Board of the British Horseracing Authority has brought a series of changes to the start rules in British horse racing
Earlier in the week, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), announced it would launch the fourth trainer and stable staff survey as a means of identifying yard-based problems and assisting the Industry People Board.
Now, the authority whose goal is to build “a brighter future for our sport, our horses, and our people” has announced a series of changes to the start rules in British racing. The changes were given the green light after a comprehensive review of all stalls and starting procedures over the course of an entire year.
Late Load Requests, Now Restricted
One of the first changes to go into effect starting January 1, 2024, regards Late Load Requests. These represent privilege requests on race day issued by trainers for their horses to be loaded out of sequence.
According to the new tweaks, Late Load Requests have been restricted to horses that have shown signs of behavioral issues inside the starting stalls in previous races in Great Britain.
At the same time, horses having their debut will no longer be eligible for a Late Load Request unless they have undertaken an assessment prior to the race which has indicated the existence of a behavioral concern inside the starting stalls.
Additionally, the rules regarding warnings for Late Load Requests and Stalls Tests have also suffered adjustments.
For example, once a trainer has been given three warnings for the same horse in relation to behavioral issues inside the stalls within a one-year period, the horse will be asked to complete one Stalls Test instead of the standard requirement of two.
Any additional Late Load Request for the respective horse will not lead to any more warnings over the course of the following 12 months, as opposed to the current rules that refer to the current lifetime late load.
The goal is to lower the number of Late Load Requests while improving the safety and fairness of the Start and making sure horses that do not have any behavioral issues are not in any way disadvantaged.
Loading Process Changes
Also effective starting January 2024, the process of twitching or grabbing the ear or tail of a horse during the loading process will only be allowed for safety purposes.
This could be anything like gently holding the ear of the horse to help relax, placating a nervous or fractious horse during the loading, or ensuring the welfare of stalls, jockeys, or horses by helping settle unruly horses in the stalls.
Provided Stewards rule these actions as going well beyond what is deemed “necessary for the purposes of safety and horse welfare,” they will have the right to issue cautions for first offenses, followed by Band A fines for subsequent offenses.
Additional changes refer to BHA starters who will no longer be allowed to carry the hunting crop during jump-starts and also the requirement that all persons assisting at the start complete the BHA Trainer Representative – Starts Training Module.
In May, BHA announced it would strengthen its board membership with two new independent non-executive directors, Kyrsten Halley and Tara Warren.