AN equine vet said he has never seen a horse suffer “significant problems” due to racing in hot weather in his 10 years working at Worcester Racecourse.

This is the busiest time of the year at the Grand Stand Road racecourse and with it coinciding with abnormally hot summer temperatures, campaign group Animal Aid has called for racing to be stopped.

However, equine vet John Campbell has said “our primary concern is the welfare of the horses” – with extra procedures having been put in place due to the weather.

Debbie Fowler, in a letter to Worcester News, said she was “amazed to see” racing taking place with temperatures consistently peaking at close to 30°C.

“How can this be justified? Ah! Money, far more important than animal welfare,” she said.

While Dene Stansall, Animal Aid’s horse racing consultant, believes an independent welfare regulator should be installed, with a “temperature limit set after which racing should not be able to take place”.

The group has set up a petition calling for the government to make the changes, including removing current welfare regulators.

Mr Campbell, speaking at Worcester Racecourse on Monday, said an extra vet has been added to the race day staff due to the hot weather, with a regulatory vet from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) always on site.

“There’s huge amounts of efforts that go into it – we’re not dismissing the conditions, we’re constantly monitoring them to adapt to them,” he said.

Mr Campbell, who is a partner at Three Counties Equine Hospital in Tewkesbury, went on to say: “if conditions were extreme we do have the ability to withhold racing” – particularly if there is no breeze.

He said thoroughbred horses adapt quickly to different temperatures, with overheating a risk during winter racing as well as the summer, while the longevity of the current heatwave means they can better acclimatise.

He explained, each race day the BHA regulatory vet checks the horses on arrival and any problems will be flagged to the course vets, including any history of “either having a reaction to heat before or any limbs issues”.

Mr Campbell said as soon as the horses come off the track “they have water poured over them” to help them cool down effectively.

“There are certain areas which get hot during races, so you’ll see us dowsing the neck and the big rump muscle at the back. It’s to do with rapid cooling. After each race we’re observing them very closely."

“We’re all very experienced in racing and we know the things that can go wrong, we know the limits that they can cope with.”

He added: “We certainly get horses that show the effects of exertion from heat, but that can happen in the winter too.

“When it’s been appropriately treated, as it has been in my experience, I’ve never seen a horse that has gone on to have significant problems.”

A BHA spokesman said the organisation is the sports independent regulator and “has the ability to take action to ensure the horses’ welfare is protected”.

“At present there is no evidence of any raised welfare risk associated with racing in these hot temperatures.

"The government does not consider that it is necessary to create a new body to protect racehorse welfare.”

See: for Animal Aid's petition.