A farrier turned leading racehorse trainer has unveiled a plan to create and expand facilities for recovering and rehabilitating racehorses.
Philip Kirby, who has clocked up 198 flat and jumps winners over the last five seasons, has lodged proposals with Richmondshire District Council to improve facilities at a satellite base he and his wife Pippa have established near their yard at East Appleton, near Catterick, to ensure racehorses can have another career after racing.
Mr Kirby, who manages more than 110 horses and employs 18 full-time and seven part-time staff, said the satellite base site was being developed to provide a safe and quiet facility away from their busy racing yard to retrain horses, as well as care for in-foal mares and young stock needing specialist monitoring.
If approved, the proposals would see improvements to the equestrian equipment, such as a horse walker and stables, alongside welfare facilities and accommodation created for staff, who need to remain close to the animals.
Nevertheless, the British Horse Society (BHS) has described Mr Kirby’s proposal as “regrettable”, claiming it would “bring even more vehicular traffic to the area which is a barrier and safety risk to horse riders on the road network”.
In a letter of objection to the council, it states: “The BHS would like to see this racing yard giving something back to the local community such as an off-road route to safely access the public bridleway network to mitigate for the negative impacts of this development and the proposed future expansion.”
Mr Kirby, whose yard has hosted weekly pony club rallies at no charge for seven years, said the BHS comments were “completely inside out and ridiculous”.
He said while most of the yard’s focus had been on developing state of the art facilities for the horses, it was vital to ensure the needs of retired racehorses were being met and that there were suitable and safe working conditions for staff.
He said: “It’s to do the job properly, so they can all be rehomed and any horse that finishes racing can have a career doing something else. Originally the plan was that we were going to run them in a loose barn, but we decided we would be safer to put stables in as we’ve had a few near-misses with them running together.”
Mr Kirby described the often bleak outlook facing racehorses after racing as “a massive problem”.
He said: “The bottom line is you can’t keep mixing them in the racing yard and you can’t just turn them in a field as they’re racehorses that have been looked after all their lives.
“Now that we have become quite big with the racing retraining racehorses is something that we have stuck by, but at the same time it’s not straightforward, we rarely sell any of them.
“They are nearly all rehomed on permanent loan, so when someone can’t cope with them or something goes wrong we always say they can come back and we have to go through the retraining again. This week we have two horses coming back that have been away for four or five years.”