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BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 15 July '16
Ascot hat features a rose for every horse that’s died at British races since 2007
Conservationist and wildlife presenter Anneka Svenska has already made a name for herself at Royal Ascot; she has worn the tallest and widest hats ever to have appeared at the race and courted media attention for headgear ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
This year, Anneka’s hat had a bittersweet message; it featured a red rose for each of the 1,340 racehorses that have died at British races since 2007. Created by milliner to the stars Louis Mariette, Anneka hopes the creation will spark a conversation about how welfare standards can be improved at British racecourses.
Safety ahead of profits
The horse racing industry is deeply embedded in British culture, and over the last 300 years Ascot – founded by a queen and located on crown property – has become a national institution. It’s a highlight of the British social calendar but there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the welfare standards of the horses – and it starts with putting the safety of the animals ahead of profits.
According to Animal Aid, approximately one in every 37 horses starting a season’s racing will have perished by the end of it. They will have died as a result of a racecourse or training injury, or they will be killed after being judged no longer financially viable. There’s scant research into the fate of ex-racehorses, but a worrying report by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) showed that of the 7,590 horses retired from racing in 2006, around 43% were either dead or not traceable just two years later.
Calling for change
Anneka believes that horses should only be used in races and events that are within their own capacity and that of their riders. A long course with large and difficult fences is too gruelling for most horses.
The Grand National and Cheltenham, two of the largest and most dangerous steeplechases, have seen 40 deaths over the last 10 years. The infamous Becher’s Brook at Aintree is known as the world’s most dangerous jump and has racked up many fatalities, yet authorities refuse to remove it. There were seven deaths at Cheltenham this year and five at Aintree.
Anneka would also like to see an end to the whipping of horses; riders at the Grand National are actually required to carry whips, and jockeys frequently violate the already watered-down whipping regulations that dictate how often and where they hit horses.The use of the whip urges the horse to go beyond what it is comfortably able to do and can result in injuries and stress. Norway banned the whip in 1982 and there is no reason why the UK couldn’t follow suit.
A hat for change: Part 1
‘As a child I dreamed of wearing the largest hat to Ascot, and when I grew up I made it happen! It was all a bit of fun but then I realised that the publicity surrounding my hat could be used to help the horses.’
Conservationist and wildlife presenter