Trainer speaks out over ‘peddling of lies’ on social media

A National Hunt trainer is encouraging supporters of the sport to share images of the “love and care” shown to racehorses to counteract the “misinformation” put out by animal rights activists.

Oliver Sherwood hit out at images published on social media in the wake of this year’s Grand National (6 April), where runner Up For Review was fatally injured at the first fence.

In a Facebook post, the Lambourn trainer said the “internet is awash” with pictures of horses supposedly injured in the race.

“Sadly social media is the perfect platform to peddle lies and misinformation by unscrupulous animal rights groups,” he said. “[They have] added gory details of how the horses were ‘shot to death’ or were ‘writhing in agony’.

“Racing is very open and honest about the injuries and fatalities but unfortunately these animal rights groups are the complete opposite, they use Photoshopped images of racing incidents often taken in other countries, yet it is widely recognised that we in the UK have some of the best animal welfare in the world.

“The images are generally years old and are specifically designed to shock people who don’t know anything about racing.”

While he acknowledged that it is “difficult to argue with fanatics”, Mr Sherwood explained the level of care racehorses experience.

“Racehorses are not shot, they are euthanised in exactly the same way you put a cat or dog to sleep, with an injection. If a horse falls during a race a vet will be with it immediately, that is why there are an army of cars following them around, the vets will instantly administer pain relief and then assess the situation,” he said.

“All racecourses have access to horse ambulances which can then transport horses to local equine hospitals if necessary, injuries are dealt with quickly and efficiently, there is no writhing about.”

He also drew attention to the “hypocritical” double standards of activists who target racing and hunting but do little to combat situations were horses’ lives are regularly put at risk.

“These same groups are not constantly campaigning for more safety on our roads, the pass wide and slow campaign doesn’t appear to have been endorsed by the well-known propaganda specialists, horses killed in the New Forest by drivers or the starving ponies you will see 20 to a field on the side of the motorway — how much attention do these get by animal activists?” he said.

“How many deaths or injuries are attributed to these road accidents, have they tried to obtain or create factual data to see how this can be improved upon?”

Mr Sherwood told H&H he had been prompted to write the post as activists are getting “more clever” with the way they Photoshop pictures.

“It’s terrifying how easily people believe what they read and hear,” he said.

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The trainer said he hoped supporters can now concentrate on “educating people who genuinely want to understand more about our sport and the wonderful horses and people that inhabit it” instead.

“More should be done to promote the good in racing,” he said. “Racing in Lambourn injects more than £20m into the local economy and the industry is the second-biggest provider of employment in sport beyond football.

“It has also put a lot of money into injury research, which benefits the wider equine population.”

He encouraged people who wanted to know more about how racing yards really operated to attend the annual Lambourn open day on Good Friday (19 April), or one of the mornings on the gallops sessions run by his and other yards.

“It’s staggering how many people don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes and think horses just turn up and race,” he said. “With events like the Lambourn open day, people can come and see the horses and that it’s like living in a five-star hotel.”

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