David Sykes to step down from role as BHA Director of Equine Health and Welfare

24 Jun 2020 BHA Features Welfare

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA)’s Director of Equine Health and Welfare, David Sykes, has announced that he will be leaving the organisation before the end of the year in order to return to his native Australia for family reasons.

David joined the BHA in 2017 and has played an instrumental role in the ongoing improvement of welfare standards for British Thoroughbreds, both in his role at the BHA and as a member of the sport’s Horse Welfare Board.

David’s involvement in the development of the Horse Welfare Board and its cross-industry welfare strategy for British racing is one of the most important legacies of his time at the BHA. The strategy focuses on the ambition that every horse bred to race should lead – and be seen to lead – “a life well lived” and David will continue to be involved in the development of plans for its implementation prior to his leaving the BHA.

Other notable highlights of David’s three years in Britain include:

  • The effective handling of the sport’s 2019 equine flu outbreak, in which swift action by the industry to contain the virus resulted in minimal disruption to the racing programme
  • The publication of a detailed review of safety and welfare at the Cheltenham Festival, including working with trainers to implement recommendations around visual assessments of horses ahead of the Festival and on-the-day trot-ups of every runner
  • Improved traceability of horses through the implementation of 30-day foal notification and changes to the ways in which retired racehorses are notified and traced
  • Greater alignment and coordination of industry bodies when it comes to welfare policies, including increased involvement of expert bodies such as the Veterinary and Ethics Committees in decision-making
  • Leading discussions globally around the use of substances such as bisphosphonates and altrenogest, alongside the introduction of more efficient and comprehensive anti-doping testing policies

David Sykes said:

“I’m very grateful to everyone I’ve worked with over the last three years for making me feel welcome here in British racing, and for the spirit of collaboration which has helped us achieve so much in a short space of time.

“I have very much enjoyed my time here and I am confident that through the excellent veterinary team at the BHA, greater collaboration amongst industry stakeholders and the important work of the Horse Welfare Board, that British racing is well placed to continue to enhance its world-leading reputation when it comes to the welfare of its animals.”

Nick Rust, Chief Executive Officer for the BHA, said:

“David has made a fantastic contribution to British racing over the last three years. His track record speaks for itself in achieving so much in a relatively short period of time and he will be greatly missed. We are grateful that David will continue to stay on for the time being while we carry out the difficult task of looking for his successor.”

A leaving date will be confirmed in due course, once the timeline for the appointment of his successor has been finalised. David will continue to lead the BHA equine health and welfare department in the meantime, in order to assist with the transition process.