Racing at Southwell has been abandoned today (25 July) as temperatures in the UK bordered on a record high.
Special measures were put in place to monitor horse welfare at all Thursday’s race meetings, including starting Southwell’s card two hours early. After monitoring temperatures throughout the day, stewards at the Nottinghamshire track elected to cancel the final two races as a precautionary measure.
“Southwell had put in place a number of provisions to assist with the hot weather conditions, including additional shaded areas and the moving of races to earlier in the day,” a spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said.
“The combination of the distance of the final two races [2.5 and three miles] and the continual rise of temperatures on course meant there was agreement that it was not safe for racing to continue and that the final two races should be abandoned.
“These decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis and this does not necessarily mean that racing at other fixtures today will be affected, and the atmospheric conditions at those racecourses will continue to be closely monitored.”
Southwell was running the only jump meet of the day, while flat racing has been taking place at Sandown and Yarmouth. Newbury and Doncaster are also hosting evening meetings.
A statement from Newbury racecourse said it would be taking extra precautions to ensure horse welfare.
“Whilst flat horses are more acclimatised to hotter weather, and race over short distances, there will be additional veterinary cover and additional hydration points with trained personnel to assist the racing staff with cooling procedures and observe on behalf of the veterinary team,” it said.
“Ice will be added to washdown water troughs, with the unsaddling enclosures hosed down between each race to keep the surfaces cool.
“All horses are monitored for episodes of heat stress and as such, we are aware of those who have a history and can monitor accordingly. If deemed too warm to use the winners’ enclosure, horses will return to the shade of the stables for cooling care.”
The Met Office predicted a 60% chance of temperatures reaching 39C in parts of the UK, which would top the previous record high of 38.4C recorded in Faversham, Kent, in 2003.
Competition went ahead at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, Hickstead, today with no reported problems.
Showjumper Guy Williams told H&H his team was hand-grazing the horses and walking them out of their stables as much as possible, as it was cooler outside.
Hickstead director Edward Bunn said the venue had installed extra water points for both horses and the public.
“It’s 34c today, so we’ve put extra water points in at every collecting ring where horses gather, with buckets, so horses can be cooled quickly. We’ve also put electricity into the stables, especially the international stables, so they can all run fans in there,” he told H&H.
“Horses are quite adaptable, and our vets monitor them, and usually as long as they can be cooled they are fine.”
Heating up abroad
Extreme weather is also affecting the Continent, with temperatures up to 42C predicted in some regions.
France Galop, the governing body of French racing, announced that Thursday’s twilight meeting scheduled for Paris Longchamp will now be run at Deauville.
“Due to the heatwave forecast in Paris this Thursday (over 41°C expected in the French capital),the evening races scheduled at ParisLongchamp will now be run at Deauville-La Touques racecourse, where the temperature is due to be cooler from 4pm onwards,” a statement on the course’s website said.
It added that the ParisLongchamp’s evening entertainment would go ahead as planned but that racegoers would be able to watch the racing from Deauville live on the track’s screens.
France’s mministry of agriculture has also imposed emergency measures, halting the transport of livestock between 1pm and 6pm.
Kent-based horse transporter John Parker International told H&H it was avoiding travelling horses across the Continent during the hottest periods.
“We’ve not had any problems with restrictions but you do have to be very careful and water the horses twice as much — we don’t do long days in this weather, we tend to start early, have a break and then finish late,” he said.
A family pub has installed a parking area for horses and ponies.
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“Our lorries are purpose built with polystyrene roofs that don’t allow the sun to come in and they have fans and proper ventilation — sometimes the horses are more comfortable in there than they are in hot stables.”
He added that some vets had been understandably cautious about signing horses off for transport.
“We had a vet in Germany when we were picking up horses at the sales who wasn’t going to sign papers for horses to be taken all the way through to the UK but that was fine, we wouldn’t travel them that long. When he was made aware they would only be doing four hours he was said ‘OK’.”
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