The power of social media lies not only with the tweeter, as one trainer found when photographs posted online by his business were used against him in disciplinary proceedings. Phil Kirby has been fined by the British Horseracing Authority for failing to ensure his staff wear body protectors when riding his racehorses, a problem that came to light only because a member of the public noticed it while looking at the social media output of Kirby’s stable.
“Several posts on his social media … showed six of his staff not wearing safety vests whilst riding horses that are in his care and control,” said a BHA statement on Monday. “The pictures that had been posted between May and July 2020 also indicated that the staff had not been wearing safety vests for several months.”
Kirby, based in North Yorkshire and best known for the exploits of his popular jumper Lady Buttons, apparently told the BHA that he was constantly telling his staff to wear body protectors but, being busy, was not always able to check that they complied.
Just the same, it is a trainer’s responsibility under the rules of racing to ensure that his staff wear appropriate safety equipment whenever mounted. Kirby accepted he was in breach and was fined £500.
On a busy day for the BHA, there was a heated clash between barristers over a ‘non-trier’ case arising from a recent race at Sedgefield. “This is a big issue because there are welfare considerations at stake,” said Roderick Moore, arguing there were sound reasons for the considerate ride given to Loughermore, who was soon behind and never involved in his first novice hurdle, trailing home last in the race shown in this tweet:
“It’s obvious to a horseman that he didn’t like the ground,” said Moore, likening Loughermore to “someone shifting from foot to foot when they’re uncomfortable at a cocktail party”.
“The BHA rightly says all over its website that welfare is front and centre of its agenda,” Moore continued, building up to a dig at the BHA’s barrister. “Notwithstanding that, Mr Weston’s case is: welfare doesn’t come into it, the rider has to go through the motions, so that jockey activity is discernible.
“I infer he makes those submissions because it makes the stewarding job simpler. But that’s not the way to go. Horses are animals, not machines. It’s a nuanced issue. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all technique for getting the best out of a horse.”
Weston responded that it was “absolutely outrageous” for Moore to suggest that the BHA case was in any way in conflict with maintaining animal welfare. “He is either trying to make a headline or make a fallacious point. He should not do it.”
For Weston, the jockey Amie Waugh was clearly at fault in remaining almost motionless. “It was her obligation to make a timely, real and substantial effort, not just to sit there and watch them go. If you do that and it fails, fine. But you’ve got to ask the question of the horse. And it has to be a real question, not just dipping slightly forward in your riding position.”
But Moore said Waugh was soon aware that her mount was not travelling as she expected and was entitled to focus on keeping Loughermore balanced, he being a horse who had had a tendon injury. Any amount of effort would not have improved his placing.
In the end, both men could claim victory, Weston because the case against Waugh was upheld. Moore, though he defended her ride, was representing Simon Waugh, Loughermore’s trainer and father of the jockey, who was exonerated, the panel accepting that his riding instructions had not been at fault.