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18 January 2022

Great British Racing’s Gabi Whitfield discuss her role and the potential of positive horse welfare communications to the sport’s reputation and community outreach

Telling positive welfare-based stories from the sport of racing has never been more important. Research shows that 65% of people state horse welfare impacts their view on racing and 35% of the general public cite welfare as a core reason not to get involved with the sport. It’s also a key area to help attract a new younger audience who are much more sensitive to any organisation or sport’s reputation in important areas such as this – and racing has so many good stories to tell.

Horsepower a constant theme

I started with Great British Racing (GBR) as Acting Head of Welfare Communications in September 2021. Most of my career has been spent in the world of automotive communications working for brands such as Mitsubishi and Nissan and latterly I was Global Head of PR at Jaguar Land Rover. Although this is my first job in horseracing, I have enjoyed working on numerous sports projects, including Jaguar Racing, The America’s Cup and Badminton Horse Trials. I’m also a horse owner and have experienced entry level-racehorse ownership through a racing club and have been part of a small syndicate with Olly Murphy Racing, whom I’m lucky enough to have based in my village.

I’ve been an independent consultant since 2019, but in summer last year I was contacted about the Interim position of Acting Head of Welfare Communications covering a maternity contract. I jumped at the opportunity as it was the ideal opportunity to use my communication skills in an area that I’m passionate about to help make a difference. 

Role supports Horse Welfare Board

The position of Welfare Communications is a new one. It was created in February 2021 and sits under GBR but also works daily with the Horse Welfare Board (HWB) and its programme delivery team. Cross functional working is a critical part of the role working across the various industry racing bodies, such as the BHA, RCA, NTF, and ROA.  

The Horse Welfare Board strategy, A Life Well Lived, was launched in February 2020 and is making great headway in the areas of safety, traceability, and aftercare to name just a few. There is also the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards where the fantastic work of the amazing people involved in racing is celebrated. No one can doubt the quality care thoroughbreds get when they see the passion and love staff show for the horses they look after.

Standby for National Racehorse Week 2022

The biggest project implemented so far by Welfare Communications was National Racehorse Week (NRW). GBR was given the responsibility of leading and implementing this huge project in April last year. I joined the team in the very week NRW was taking place and I was genuinely blown away by what the sport was doing. NRW 2021 united racing and created the sport’s first national cross-industry platform to promote welfare in a positive way,  as a collective. The results were outstanding and opening the doors to our industry, and allowing people to see and feel the care racehorses get, will now become a cornerstone of how we help shape the public’s sentiment towards racing.

Plans are already underway for 2022 and this year we will have a particular emphasis on community outreach, which will include developing the work with Racing to School to encourage more young people via their schools and families to attend. Using NRW as a platform in this way, will help racing tell a more connected and powerful story and show itself to be a force for good. These collaborations will help racing add a layer of communications related to diversity and inclusion in our sport, as well as support the recruitment challenge currently being faced by the industry.   

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