Charity raises concerns after eighth horse death this season at Hastings Racecourse

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Human society demands racecourse changes
The Vancouver Humane Society is demanding changes at Hastings Race Course after the deaths of eight horses this year. Paul Johnson reports. – Oct 21, 2023

The Vancouver Humane Society is sounding alarm bells about a number of horse deaths at the Hastings Racecourse on the Lower Mainland.

“We actually started looking into this because there was a series of four deaths in just three weeks in the summer at the Hastings Racecourse,” Chantelle Archambault, the communications director for the Vancouver Humane Society told Global News.

Archambault said the society has also seen a number of issues around the horses’ welfare.

“These horses are facing stress and risks to their lives at every stage of this process, including aversive training techniques, the use of painful tools like whips and fits that are meant to strictly control their movements. And there are really inherent welfare risks that need to be meaningfully addressed,” she added.

Archambault said last week they received an anonymous tip from the public that there was another death at the racecourse. She said the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) of the province was able to confirm to them that a horse named Sky’s-a-Blazing was euthanized this past weekend and that the horse’s death was the eighth racehorse death this year.

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“There were eight horse deaths at Hastings Racecourse last year,” she said. “We’re now already at another eight deaths at Hastings Racecourse this year. And in addition to that, there are reports that show that injuries and illnesses in horses are quite common.”

Archambault said the society is not seeing a worsening problem but rather a reoccurring problem. The society is also urging people to spend their entertainment money elsewhere.

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David Milburn, president of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of B.C., which oversees all the oversees and trainers of thoroughbred racehorses in the province, said they are heavily regulated by the GPEB.

“Every effort is made to ensure that the track is safe, that the conditions are safe, and to protect the equine athletes – the horses and the human athletes as well – the jockeys. A lot of work goes into it,” Milburn said.

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He added that they also have a vet on site who observes the horses before the race and watches the jockeys mount the horses before the race starts.

“Accidents happen,” he said. “And regrettably three horses were injured. They were fatalities during the running of the races this year. Last year we didn’t have any. This year we had three during the races themselves.”

Milburn said he agrees that there have been eight horses that have died this year, three on the track, associated with the Hastings Racecourse.

“Safety is the number one priority,” he said. “And the death of a horse is devastating to the barn that it comes from – to the groom that works on it, to the trainer, to the owner, the entire racing community feels the effect of a fatality of losing a horse. These horses are loved.”

Milburn added that every time there is a horse’s death, there is an investigation done about what happened and how that can be prevented in the future.

Our ultimate goal is to make racing as safe as possible, and we do whatever we can in order to prevent accidents from occurring on the racetrack,” he said.

These horses are well cared for. You will not find better cared for horses in North America than horses that are on the racetrack.”

Global News has reached out to Hastings Racecourse for comment.

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