Off The Track Horses – Record attendance for the seventh International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses:

In front of a record number of attendees, the seventh International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) took place on 14 February in Melbourne, Australia, and provided an onsite visit to a Thoroughbred aftercare facility as well as a traditional conference covering a wide variety of aftercare topics.

“There can be little doubt, after listening to our speakers this afternoon, that racing takes its responsibility in relation to aftercare very seriously,” said Dr. Eliot Forbes, Chair of the IFAR Conference Committee. “You have heard today about aftercare strategies that are sophisticated and multi-faceted.

“Our racing authorities are active in regulation, supporting Thoroughbred class events, engaging with the equestrian community, providing a safety net if required and championing an industry culture that is moral and kind. Racing, in every corner of the world, is here for the horses. With IFAR, we want to set the agenda for what’s next in aftercare: better science, better regulation, and better awareness of our responsibilities.”

The IFAR conference took place in conjunction with the 39th Asian Racing Conference (ARC), which is organized by the Asian Racing Federation (ARF). The ARC is scheduled for 14-19 February and is being hosted by Racing Victoria (RV).

“We are delighted to be attending the Asian Racing Conference 2023,” said Di Arbuthnot, the chair of IFAR. “In addition to the success that’s been achieved, there’s still more to do in the aftercare space. Wherever your horse ends up, there should be a life after racing. I hope when we meet again, IFAR can showcase more countries that follow an aftercare plan, and we can share more videos of success stories.”

The day started with a visit to Spring Creek Equine, which is located in the Yarra Valley, approximately 50 kilometers from Melbourne. Founders Samantha Cesnik and Chris Height are RV Acknowledged Retrainers and are also involved in RV’s RESET (Racehorse Evaluation Support Education and Training) Program.

“We were really excited to have so many wonderful delegates from all over the world here today,” said Cesnik. “We are passionate about racehorse rehoming, retraining, and life after racing. To see so many people from all over the world take an interest in that is really special. To be able to showcase what we do is a really unique opportunity. Horses live for a long time and race for a short time. A very small investment in time and money in their future gives them stability for a long-term life after racing and a healthy career.”

Delegates were able to observe Don’t Doubt Nic on the facility’s water treadmill before watching additional equine athletes Bertone, Quick Justice, Rossatin, and Tata Ma Pick demonstrate groundwork, flatwork, pole work, jumping, and cross country work.

Participants then returned to Melbourne for the afternoon portion of the IFAR conference. Tim Gilbert, the host of Racing Dreams, delivered the forum’s keynote address, while renowned media personality Caroline Searcy served as moderator.

“The story of equine welfare needs to be told so much better,” said Gilbert. “You need to win the hearts and minds of the public. Facts need to be put next to great story telling. You have to get those stories out there, and the story telling needs to be rich and potent.”

After the keynote, clinical ethologist and horse and elephant trainer Andrew McLean, who holds a PhD in equine cognition and founded the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre, presented on training Thoroughbreds for success both on and off the track.

“Our training needs to be fundamentally clear to the horse, and that’s not always easy,” said McLean. “If we provide mental security, then whatever we train them to do, we can get them to the very best that they can be on the racetrack and in their life after racing. It’s not only valuable for them, but it’s also valuable for us, as we get the very best out of them. Operant conditioning should be instilled in the horse’s brain before classical conditioning. Clear behavioural boundaries provide mental security owing to predictability and controllability.”

Following a viewing of the latest IFAR video magazine, a panel discussion then took place on new models for industry cooperation. Speakers included Dr. David Craig (Emirates Racing Authority), LaToyah James (Racing New South Wales), Dr. Atsushi Kikuta (Japan Racing Association), Natasha Rose (Hong Kong Jockey Club), and Melissa Ware (Racing Victoria).

Next, Professor Seungho Ryu, who is from the Department of Equine Resources Science at Cheju Halla University and was the former general manager of the International Department at the Korea Racing Authority (KRA), presented on practical tools to screen for temperament and the importance of transition training.

“As the majority of equestrian riders expect emotional satisfaction and safety in equitation, equine temperament is an important consideration when considering the use of a horse, ranging from hippotherapy to show jumping competitions,” said Ryu, who presented a study on screening for temperament. “This study explored scientific parameters for selecting retired racehorses that will be suitable for equestrian sports. Findings will enhance Thoroughbred racehorse welfare and equestrian/leisure rider safety.”

He was followed by Kim Duffy, the Senior Animal Care Manager and Off-The-Track Program Manager for Racing Queensland, who discussed the success of racehorse aftercare in Queensland.

“The Queensland Off-The-Track Program (QOTT Program) has been established to support a high-quality first transition for Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses, bred for the racing industry and domiciled in Queensland at the time of their retirement from racing or breeding activities,” said Duffy. “The QOTT Program architecture has six Focus Areas that are underpinned by the ‘Principles of Aftercare’, as set by IFAR. A structured program of actions and initiatives has been established under the six focus areas to maximise aftercare outcomes for Queensland’s retired racehorses.”

The final panel of the forum was focused on realising athletic potential. Participants included McLean as well as Jessica Bott, show jump rider, riding coach, and member of the Channel 7 Racing broadcast team; Amanda Ross, Olympic event rider and Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Ambassador for Equestrian Australia; and Kazuma Tomoto, Japanese equestrian who finished fourth in the individual eventing competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The IFAR conference received assistance from the Japan Racing Association (JRA), which has entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement to support the activities of the organization.

Prior to the virtual conference series in 2022 and 2021, IFAR had previously been held in conjunction with the 38th ARC in Cape Town, South Africa, in February 2020; the European & Mediterranean Horseracing Federation’s General Assembly in Oslo, Norway, in May 2019; the 37th ARC in Seoul, South Korea, in May 2018; and the Pan American Conference in Washington, D.C., in May 2017.

For more information about the 39th ARC, please visit

IFAR is an independent forum that recognizes geographical and industry differences among racing countries and is designed to enhance Thoroughbred aftercare worldwide. Working with the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, IFAR will raise awareness of the importance of welfare for Thoroughbreds, improve education on lifetime care, and help increase demand for former racehorses in other equestrian sports. For more information on IFAR, visit or follow its social channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A video replay of the conference will be available soon.

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