Living the 'Best Life' or 'One Size Fits All'- Stakeholder Perceptions of Racehorse Welfare

Deborah Butler*, Mathilde Valenchon, Rachel Annan, Becky Whay, Siobhan Mullan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
285 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of the study was to explore the perceptions held by British racing industry stakeholders of factors influencing racehorse welfare. Ten focus groups were held across the UK with a total of 42 stakeholders from a range of roles within racehorse care including trainers, stable staff and veterinarians. Participants took part in three exercises. Firstly, to describe the scenarios of a ‘best life’ and the minimum welfare standards a horse in training could be living under. Secondly, to identify the main challenges for racehorse welfare and thirdly, to recall any innovative or uncommon practices to improve welfare they had witnessed. Using thematic analysis, eight themes emerged from the first exercise. Two strands, factors that contribute to maintaining health and the horse-human relationship ran through all eight themes. Across all themes horses living the ‘best life’ were perceived as being treated as individuals rather than being part of a ‘one size fits all’ life when kept under minimum welfare standards. Health was both perceived as the main challenge to welfare as well as one open to innovative practices such as improved veterinary treatments. Data obtained, informed by the knowledge and expertise of experienced stakeholders, combined with practical animal welfare science will be used to develop the first British racehorse welfare assessment protocol.
Original languageEnglish
Article number134
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Early online date31 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Focus groups
  • Health
  • Horse-human relationship
  • Racehorse welfare
  • Thematic analysis

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