Now is the time to show transparency if we are to survive, says racehorse trainer Kim Bailey
BY the time you read this, the Cheltenham Festival will have been and gone. But this year the eyes of the world will be focused on us more than ever in the aftermath of one of racing’s most difficult moments, when a leaked photo of Gordon Elliott sitting astride a dead horse appeared on social media. As soon as it was leaked, by a third party, the world of social media went mad – it was a shocking image and one that can only be described as barbaric.
What Elliott did by posing on the back of a dead horse was foolish and totally unforgivable and the ramifications will reverberate around Elliott and racing for the rest of his life.
The result of his misdemeanour is that he is banned for six months and the Cheltenham Festival has had no Elliott-trained runners, but frankly the punishment is not what this is all about.
I’m sure everyone in racing and outside the industry thought Elliott’s picture was distasteful and disrespectful, although those of us who live in the country tend to see dead animals on a more regular basis, whether it be roadkill, manufactured by farming or country pursuits.
A very fine line
BUT racing treads a very fine line when it comes to how it fares with many outside our world. Of course there is a perception of cruelty, but that is not the case. Our sport is highly regulated and we are proud of how well we look after our horses. I believe we are the best in the world when it comes to horse management and welfare.
Unfortunately many headline-writers don’t want to know that. Bad news does sell papers and Elliott’s picture has given some in the mainstream press a reason to get their teeth into and kick our sport for all the wrong reasons.
Elliott has risen through the ranks, he has taken the dream of being a top racehorse trainer by the throat and has achieved almost the impossible. He has grafted and I am sure through his determination he has forced his way to the top, but now he must show the strength of character that got him there to be able to save his career and rebuild, knowing that his unbelievably foolish mistake will haunt him.
I believe he will, but it will take a lot of persuasion for the public to trust racing again after the long-term damage the photo has done to the sport.
It is not just racing this saga has hit. It is all horse sports and those of us who are wrapped up in horses must show transparency and openness to all if we are to survive. There is no better time than the present to open our doors to show the public how we care for and love our animals.
Remember that mobile phones and cameras are everywhere and if you wouldn’t want something you’re doing appearing all over social media, it’s a clear sign you shouldn’t be doing it.
This exclusive column was also published in H&H magazine, Thursday 18 March 2021 issue
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