Equine welfare


The French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Safety (ANSES, ref. No. 2016-SA-0288) defines animal welfare as “a positive mental and physical state linked to the satisfaction of its physiological and behavioural needs and its expectations. This state varies based on each animal’s perception of its situation.”

The idea of welfare therefore includes both the physical but also the psychological state of the animal, which each depend on the other. An animal in a state of well-being is one that is healthy both physically and mentally.



Animal welfare has globally recognised professional and scientific description models. Based on this knowledge, the equine sector created its own “Equine welfare charter” in 2016. This charter sets out the most relevant measures in terms of animal welfare, and can be applied to all types of equines – breeding, leisure, sport, labour, draft and racing – regardless of their age.

Like all of the charter’s signatories, France Galop is committed to:

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  1. Supporting those working with horses in carrying out their activities with a three-pronged focus (economic, social and environmental), taking animal welfare into account, including the ethical aspect.
  2. Communicating professional expertise in animal welfare.
  3. Promoting the charter within each of its organisations.
  4. Encouraging scientific research and the production of technical reference guides on equine welfare.
  5. Strengthening and creating awareness around the common knowledge and skills base for equine welfare in terms of initial and further training.
  6. Including this equine welfare charter as a means of continuous improvement and regular revision as practices and scientific expertise evolve.

In 2018, the charter was complemented by a technical manual which provides those working in the sector with tools to optimise their best practices.
This guide was designed to put the eight measures of the National Charter for Equine Welfare into practice.

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Equine Welfare videos

Living conditions of racehorses

A daily commitment to taking good care of racehorses

Racehorses are entrusted to professionals with specific training

A racehorse's training programme is personalised and adapted to its abilities

The racehorse's living conditions are checked on a daily basis


In this video series, learn how the horses’ welfare is the main priority of the trainers and racecourse staff.

Watch the web series

Races at every level, enabling each horse to compete

Physical integrity and morale are key factors in a horse being able to give it their best. To maintain a level of long-term health and motivation in horses, it is crucial to enter them in races that are suitable to their abilities, where they can come up against opponents of comparable strength – after all, horses like to lead!

In France, there are lots of different races spread across various categories based on the age, sex and past performances of the runners. The number of races in each category and their timing throughout the year is set out by the parent companies to best meet the provisional needs of the horses in training both in terms of quantity and quality.

The work involved in putting together race cards enables trainers to find the right races for their horses based on their levels of form at the time, their age and their ability. There are races for every horse, despite their extremely diverse profiles… Once a race has been selected, the trainer can then meticulously prepare the horse for its goal, ensuring that it is ready to take on the competition when it arrives at the racetrack without exceeding its limits!

On race days, each horse may only run one race. It arrives at the racecourse several hours in advance accompanied by a stablehand who knows the horse by heart and how to get it into the best mental and physical state before the race. The stablehand will accompany the horse during the first part of the warm-up so that the horse can get settled in in its own time.

In trot races, the runner will take part in heats, one or two hours before the start – this is a series of warm-up races with the speed gradually increasing.
In flat races, horses are paraded for an extended period before the race to relax them and warm up their bodies little by little.

After this initial phase, the stablehand hands their protégé over to the jockey or the driver who will run the horse in the race. The latter will take them on a canter or short warm-up gallop to the starting line to get the horse to obey the reins and complete its physical preparation.

A horserace is a high-level sporting event. Led by their jockey or their driver, racehorses draw upon all of their resources to win a race. After such an effort, a recuperation phase is necessary.

Once it has crossed the finish line, the horse remains on the track for a couple of minutes where it continues to run at a reduced speed. This enables it to slow down its heartbeat progressively, return to a more regular breathing pattern, lower its body temperature and eliminate toxins.

Once off the track, if the horse has been placed, it will quickly go to the paddock. The stablehand then returns to take off the saddle and give the horse some water.

If it is hot, the horse is cooled down. Then it is taken on a long walk, given a shower, bandaged and allowed to rest before the team goes back on the road. It is monitored closely and treated if necessary. It then returns to its stable where it can start to prepare gently for its next meet, a few weeks away.

As is the case with any body which organises sporting events featuring high-level performers, the Institution is committed to ensuring the safety of the horses and the people who take part in horseraces. In 2019, the 2,275 race meets across 235 racetracks in France all complied with very exact guidelines in terms of infrastructure, facilities, safety and organisation.

At each racetrack, technical teams provide their expertise to give the horses the best possible conditions on race days. The tracks are maintained with the utmost care throughout the year to guarantee the kind of flexibility in the ground that horses need to put in their effort, and to ensure the safety of the runners. Any obstacles that are judged to be dangerous are adjusted (either in terms of the edges or the structure itself).

Over €15 million was invested between 2000 and 2020 to improve safety at racetracks. Most notably, flexible, shock-absorbing safety barriers were installed as well as new rails for obstacles made of shock-absorbing material to avoid injury and improve the safety of jockeys who suffer a fall.

In the event of inclement weather or a track that is deemed to be unfit for competition, races are postponed or called off.

The racetrack is a place where dozens of different horses come together on any one day from all around France and even on occasion from abroad. Everything therefore needs to be in place to maintain their health and avoid the spread of disease.

Reducing health risks to a minimum

  • Vaccination is of course an important means of prevention, and racehorses have the most detailed vaccination protocols. Most notably, they have to be vaccinated at least once a year against flu and rhinopneumonitis. The vaccination card of each runner is systematically checked before the race and any horse that does not comply with this rule may be declared a non-runner.
  • Furthermore, before each meet, all boxes are carefully disinfected before being filled with clean and comfortable straw to give each runner ideal health conditions.
  • During outbreaks of animal diseases, the starting gates may also be disinfected.

The role of vets in races
Moreover, as at all high-level sporting events, horseraces have their own specialised medical staff capable of intervening at any moment during the competition to prevent or attend to health issues among the contestants. These are the trackside vets.

  • Before the race, if called upon by a horse’s team or the race commissioners, the vet may inspect a runner to confirm that it is capable of going under starter’s orders. No risks may be taken with the health of horses which must be in absolutely prime form to take part in the race.
  • During the race, the trackside vet is ready to intervene at any moment to treat and ease the pain of any horse that has been injured. If necessary, they can advise that a horse be sent to a specialised establishment.
  • The trackside vet may also intervene after the race to check on any horses that seem to be suffering or having problems recuperating, or to administer treatment if necessary.

Medication of horses during the race: zero tolerance
Only horses that are in good health and running within their natural physical limits are allowed to take part in races;

  • As such, no medication is authorised during races, as this is as much an issue of the safety of the horses as it of the integrity of the competition, as these substances may indicate the existence of a health issue for the horse or enable it to go beyond its physical limits by masking pain or artificially increasing its strength.
  • Vets which are certified by the Fédération Nationale des Races Hippiques are on site to ensure that this rule is adhered to and they permit no exceptions.

Certification to validate the implementation of equine welfare criteria at racetracks

EquuRES certification is a quality standard that protects the environment and animal welfare.

Created in 2014 at the behest of the Normandy Horse Council, it is aimed at any professional organisation which house horses. EquuRES certification was approved in 2020 by the French Ministry of Agriculture.

EquuRES “Racetrack” certification is part of the development of the EquuRES certification and is adapted specifically to racetracks, regardless of their size or location. It was drawn up in collaboration with the Fédération Nationale des Courses Hippiques to meet the needs of the sector both in terms of environmental quality and the respect of equine welfare within our infrastructures. This label integrates the 8 measures of the Equine Welfare Charter.

There are three levels of certification to enable racecourses to develop their infrastructure and improve their running as they strive towards continuous improvement:

– No.1 Commitment

– No.2 Progress

– N°3 Excellence


Life after racing

Multi-talented horses, ready for a new career

High-performance and incredibly versatile horses
The length of a racehorse’s career depends on a number of parameters. After their time as competitors, the top-performing horses are steered towards breeding as stallions or broodmares to pass on their qualities to future generations. In flat racing, where only natural mating is authorised, this passage into breeding can occur very quickly.

Other horses will have their careers shortened by health problems which mean that they are not compatible with continuing competition (such as a fragile physique or injury). Most of these will be taken out of training by their owner and trainer, who will consider that the horse has achieved its objectives and deserves to be retrained.

A second career can thus be envisioned for these horses which are often still young and have considerable physical capabilities and a genuine ability to learn. Many of them are steered towards equestrianism, either for leisure or competition in various disciplines (polo, horseball, show jumping, three-day eventing and dressage).

4,480 thoroughbreds and 720 AQPS (Other Than Thoroughbreds or French Chasers) took part in FFE competitions in 2022, which is a huge increase compared with 2011 (up 33% and x12, respectively).

High-performance and incredibly versatile horses

The horses are looked after by professional re-trainers who help them to acquire the skills that will be indispensable in their new lives. There are also organisations which specialise in taking in and looking after horses which can no longer work due to physical or behavioural issues.

Parent companies are always keen to help the horses along their new path. In flat racing, the commitment to the retraining of horses first came about in 2007 with a partnership signed between France Galop and the Ligue Française pour la Protection du Cheval (French Horse Protection League), followed in 2019 by partnerships signed between France Galop and Au-Delà des Pistes, an organisation which guarantees:

– the selection and verification of establishments capable of looking after the rehabilitation and retraining of former racehorses in all sorts of equestrian disciplines or taking them on as retired horses;

– management of the administrative aspects of this retraining;

– promoting the versatility of flat-racing horses to riders in equestrianism and leisure activities.

In 2022, 322 horses were taken on by Au-delà des Pistes, with France Galop’s financial contribution towards the retraining of these racehorses being €138,000. Furthermore, the organisation received €157,000 of support in 2022 from those working in and otherwise involved in the racing sector via donations and fund-raising activities. France Galop also carries out some of the tasks required to ensure the administrative protection and traceability of retrained horses.

Moreover, France Galop contributed €122,000 to the Ligue Française pour la Protection du Cheval for the accommodation of retired racehorses.




#RaceAndCare: the hashtag for fans and those working in the sector.

It is the symbol of the commitment of each of us to equine welfare. The aim is to clearly identify everything published on social media that is related to equine welfare to provide greater visibility, and to promote and underscore what the equine sector is doing.

If you have any photos of you enjoying time with your horse or taking care of it at home or on the racecourse, then share them with your social network and add #RaceAndCare in the text.


If you have any questions or comments, please write to us
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Horse racing is the one sector where horses are the subject of the greatest respect and benefit from the most appropriate care.
The three main aims of Equine Welfare hinge on the respect and consideration of the racehorse, its safety and its post-racing life.
As a symbol of our commitment to equine welfare, the hashtag #RaceAndCare brings together all our animal welfare-related initiatives on social media.