In the previous blog, I mentioned some of the ways that we learn to recognise each horse. Many of you have probably seen the story in the Racing Post yesterday concerning the running of the wrong horse in a race. It’s the second incident in the past few months and despite the decision to twice scan each horse’s microchip at the races, it has happened again. (For the full story click here).
In short, it transpires that the horses were mixed up at the trainer’s yard shortly after they had arrived there from another trainer. It is easily done while a horse is still very unfamiliar to you. Imagine - a member of the yard staff has loaded the horses onto the walker, the work-rider comes in, collects his next ride off the walker, tacks it up, canters and returns it to the stable. Only it’s the wrong stable and because the horses aren’t yet recognisable to the staff, ‘Bill’ has been put in ‘Bob’s’ stable and before you know it, we have a case of mistaken identity.
When a batch of new horses arrive from sales, they each come with their passports (example below) and have the respective lot number stuck to their bottoms. We leave the number on for a good few days while we familiarise ourselves with the horses as well as attaching name tags to their headcollars and name cards to the stable doors. A yard list is kept of all horses and their stable numbers. Still, it’s not unheard of for staff and jockeys to tack up the wrong horse once in a while, though luckily, we haven’t taken the wrong one to the races yet!
We do have a similiar tale to share though…
Three years ago, at Redcar racecourse, our runner disappeared from his stable… before his race! His groom was frantic, running up and down the rows looking for his charge but unable to find him anywhere. Imagine what was going through his mind, having to call the boss and say, ‘I’ve lost the horse, he’s disappeared!” With race time drawing closer he dashed to the stable office for help. After a few head scratches, a little discussion and one or two phone calls, the pieces were finally put together – someone had hijacked our horse! Our runner was now half an hour down the motorway. It was, of course, a complete accident. The unlikely ‘horse hijackers’ had claimed the winner of an earlier race and when collecting their new stead, went to stable 53 instead of 63. Our horse was promptly returned in time to run – crisis averted! Shame he didn’t win, now that would be a story!
No sitting in a photobooth for our equine friends! The whorls in their hair, white markings and any other standout features that will not change and can help identify the horse, are marked by a vet. It is mandatory that all horses have passports and are microchipped. The passport must always be taken the the races with the horse.