Victorian trotting has a new HERO

Victorian trotting has a new HERO
HERO manager Tanya McDermott, Ambassador Greg Sugars and Youranut.

The unveiling of Harness Education & Re-homing Opportunities (HERO) has brought to fruition one of Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) most pressing priorities.

The much anticipated project will deliver unprecedented life after racing avenues for retired standardbreds and elevates Victoria to the forefront of animal welfare innovation within the harness racing industry.

HERO is being financed jointly by HRV and the Andrews State Government via the Victorian Racing Industry Fund.

HRV CEO John Anderson said horse welfare was a critical component of any vibrant and healthy racing industry.

“We already have in place a number of broad strategies to manage the care and wellbeing of our horse population, principally under the banner of racing and integrity,” Anderson said.

“HRV acknowledges, however, that a key inclusion within a comprehensive and appropriate welfare program is providing an alternate life for standardbreds no longer racing.

“We are excited to be partnering with the State Government and sincerely appreciate the support of Racing Minister Martin Pakula MP whose backing is integral to HERO’s success.”

Anderson said that through the research and development of HERO, HRV had noted there is already significant work undertaken in horse re-education and re-homing across the harness racing industry.

“What’s lacking is central co-ordination of the many initiatives in place, accompanied by widespread, positive publicity of the fantastic stories which are evolving – at present, largely behind the scenes,” he said.

HRV General Manager – Operations Vaughn Lynch will oversee the HERO Project.

“There are some incredibly dedicated, talented and passionate people working very hard to secure positive outcomes for standardbreds which, for a myriad of different reasons, are not suitable for racing,” Lynch said.

“HERO will both acknowledge and support these people, and provide the information and resources to generate increased opportunities for a greater number of retired horses to find a purposeful, long term future in retirement.”

Tanya McDermott, an advocate for life after racing, will manage the implementation of HERO.
Her role includes:

  • The development of a registration program for re-trainers to ensure a consistent, professional standard of care and re-education for off-the-track standardbreds.
  • Managing the flow of retired horses through liaison with owners, trainers and breeders. This will include educating harness industry participants about the options available for horses that are no longer suitable for racing.
  • Coordinating placement with the most appropriate re-trainer, assessing each horse’s individual qualities and attributes with a view to maximising its potential beyond the racetrack.
  • Managing and advising on the placement of horses that are unsuitable for riding.
  • Managing the transition of horses between harness trainers, re-trainers and end purchasers.
  • Promoting and advertising HERO through traditional, electronic and social media outlets.
  • Managing a register of re-homed horses, and the de-registration of standardbreds once they cease to be actively utilised within the harness racing industry. HRV will work in parallel with a nationwide de-registration system presently being developed by Harness Racing Australia.
  • Providing information, advice and guidance to suitably skilled/experienced people who wish to become standardbred re-trainers.
  • Reinforcing and developing relationships with organisations such as the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of Victoria, the Horse Riding Clubs Association of Victoria, Pony Clubs Victoria, Equestrian Australia, the Royal Agricultural Show Society of Victoria, the Australian Carriage Driving Society and the Australian Trail Horse Riders Association, to build the profile of and promote standardbreds as pleasure horses and create increased opportunities for standardbred riders.

“Standardbreds make the most fantastic pleasure horses,” McDermott said.

“Thanks largely to the efforts of Kathleen Mullan and MF Hollywood (who contested the prestigious Garryowen), the breed is more widely accepted in equestrian circles than ever before and while there is still some work to be done to break down traditional biases, the number of people willing to consider a Standardbred as a riding horse is growing daily.

“I have been fortunate through my work in the media to build a terrific rapport with industry participants in Victoria and I already have a wide network of owners and trainers whom I work with to assist in placing horses at the conclusion of their racing career.

“HERO will elevate Victoria’s re-education and placement activities to an exciting new level and I’m enormously grateful for the opportunity to spearhead the project.”


Do you have a question about the HERO program?  

Connect with HERO via Twitter (@HRVHERO) and Facebook