In Britain in 2022 there were over 10,000 races ran with over 85,000 runners at 59 racecourses. Combined with an ever increasing number of horses travelling internationally to race, there is enormous potential for large scale transmission of infectious diseases in the racehorse population. Outbreaks of highly infectious diseases such as equine herpes virus and equine influenza can have serious consequences for the welfare of horses, as well as disrupting racing and training activities on a local and national scale.
Protecting the health of the racehorse population is essential to safeguarding both the welfare of the horses and the day-to-day running of the racing industry. For this reason, HBLB funds an equine influenza monitoring and research programme and, together with the Racehorse Owners' Association and Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, an infectious disease surveillance service. These programmes were based at the Animal Health Trust for many years, but, following the Trust’s closure in July 2020, they are now based in the Cambridge University Veterinary School with Rossdales Laboratory providing specialist microbiology support.
In 2023, the HBLB will apply some £357,000 to the equine influenza programme and the infectious disease surveillance services to help protect racehorses and, ultimately, the racing industry.