Safety and horses go together like leeks and strawberries. They can grow in the same soil, in the same garden, end up in the same kitchen with the same cook, but nobody is going to put them together on a plate.
Encyclopaedia Britannica sums it up rather elegantly when discussing Driving.
We are of course referring here to the 1911 Britannica, the last one worth having, though I include the three volume post War addendum in the package. It is a stunning work, the last Britannica where it was considered an honour to write for it. On amateur sport it is fascinating. Read the section on Amateur Rowing and the Olympic Ideal will make you want to vomit. Unless of course you believe all amateurs should be Public School boys. The section on Flight is brilliant, but enough of that, back to safety. Here is Britannica on the subject of driving;
“Under all these different conditions driving is a work of utility, of economic value to civilized society. But from very early times driving, especially of horses, has also been regarded as a sport or pastime. This probably arose in the first instance from its association with battle.”
If you think Battles are jolly good fun, you don’t list safety as a top priority, and you probably aren’t what is known in the trade as cannon fodder, ie the lower classes.
OK so that is 1911, things have moved on. Oh yes indeedy they have. Onwards and as far as one can tell, backwards. To courage has been added stupidity.
Look at the Horseracing industry attitude to Fire. Now the Horseworld have a weird view of the terrors of fire for horses, mostly because they all remember Mummy reading Black Beauty, and how the horses wouldn’t leave the burning stable because they were too frightened, until James the groom tied his scarf over their eyes.
I am always impressed by the ability of the Horseworld to ignore inconvenient facts. Like Black Beauty hating bits, whips, horseshoes, cruppers, blinkers, foxhunting etc. They remember the Fire and they remember the Bearing rein. bearing reins are still in use, still recommended, still sick….
And Fire. Are horses really scared? I introduced Winston the mule to a bonfire, quite a big bonfire, and he expressed polite interest. Obama has driven past the remains of a warehouse fire with the Fire brigade still in attandance and loads of smoke without fuss. I am not sticking either of them in a burning stable to find out, but anyway, in a burning stable, they are trapped. It isn’t fire the horse fears, it is being trapped by fire. But enough pedantry and lets look at the Fire precautions recommended by firstly:
The British Horseracing Authority who, when they are not insisting that whips make horses safer, say, The British Horseracing Authority regulates, promotes and represents the sport of horseracing. The Authority manages the fixture list; sets, promotes and enforces standards through education, Rules and disciplinary processes; represents the views of racings stakeholders; and seeks to ensure racing is clean and fair. The safety and welfare of horse and rider is a priority.
The National Stud of whom The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, said: “I am pleased that The Jockey Club has agreed to take on ownership of the National Stud. This means first class training in stud management will continue and, importantly, that the facility will be managed by an organisation dedicated to the improvement of horseracing.”
and thirdly The Thoroughbred Breeders Association who “continues to hold a high and respected profile in the political arena, “
So heavyweight bodies, not to be trifled with, and they are working with the Health and Safety Executive to produce a document that is now in its fourth fatuous edition. I have read the third, slightly slimmer, (only 109 rather than 117 pages), but still fatuous edition. You can tell the difference between them because the letter from the HSE honcho says third edition in the third edition and guess what stunning change he makes to his personal, and very complimentary letter, in the fourth.
But this is just establishing the credentials. We need to know what to do in a fire, and where better to go than HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE RACING AND BREEDING INDUSTRY Guidelines on Good Practice Fourth Edition – August 2007
We are getting top quality advice here, no question. These guys are the tops, they have the skill, they have money to burn, but from the evidence, tjhey won’t burn money, just horses, stable lads, ie nothing that really matters.
MUST be practised at least annually, preferably six monthly. It is not necessary to actually sound the alarm which might upset the horses. Try placing obstacles in the way to represent fire spots to make the drill as realistic as possible
Records of dates/time/persons present MUST be kept.
I am trying to work my way through this logically. The alarm might frighten the horses, so it is not necessary to sound it. Then you should put obstacles that aren’t normally there, in places that might or might not have fires to make the drill as realistic as possible.
And then when there is a fire, you will run round obstacles that aren’t there, and the horses will be terrified by the alarm, and there will be a real fire, and real danger, and the poor sods who work in the stables, are going to have to learn very, very fast, how to calm horses down in the middle of a fire, while they are being scared witless by the alarm and by the fire.
Why don’t they suggest using the alarm regularly, for monthly fire drills, and training the animals to accept that the alarm means someone will bring them a carrot. It would be really easy, and if there is a fire, and the alarm is sounded, the horses will be at the front of their boxes, waiting for someone to do something nice. This would make sense, would be cheap and easy and reasonable. But to a body that insists whips are a safety gadget, common sense is another country. That would mean Thinking Outside the Horsebox.
This Government approved bunch of the Great and the Good can sit in their comfortable offices and write crap that would kill people if they took it seriously. The only reason this stuff hasn’t killed people is because the guys who do the work ignore the whole bloody document as a bunch of garbage written to protect the wallets of the rich and famous.
YOU MUST record who was at the fire drill. The fact that the fire drill will teach them dangerous nonsense likely to kill them is an irrelevance, they can fry, but your backside is covered.
Safety and Horses Leeks and Strawberries, case proven.
But I will be back, this topic can run and run.
Don’t even start me on FIRING