Sadly the photograph of racehorse trainer Gordon Elliot appeared on my social media timelines and it is an image that stuck in my head. As a long time horse owner this was a reputational crisis that made me really think. It is such an emotive subject and when I heard about it I considered how you could positively respond to the situation.
My horror was compounded when this afternoon video emerged of an amateur jockey and it showed a lack of respect to a dead horse. The situation has now threatened to damage the image of racing and those involved in it.
My starting point is that horse racing and the individuals involved in these two circumstances need to recognise the issue and the severity of it. Just apologising though will not be enough. This has had an impact across racing so the road ahead is going to be long.
Can Gordon Elliot recover from this? Regardless of what happens with the investigation, there is so much that will need to be demonstrated and it will not be easy. Managing the impact of this means careful thought and planning with no quick fix. This situation is similar for the wider horse racing community who need to take care in everything they say and do.
The whole situation is a reminder for all businesses not to become complacent about how they treat people and animals. If employees lose sight of the human impact of their work it is a slippery slope towards a reputation crisis. Look at what you do from the outside in. Listen to people who talk about what you do, question yourself about how you operate, and find ways to keep connected to people’s views.
The most enduring commentary on this situation was listening to trainer Peter Scudamore obviously upset by what had happened. It was more than that though he went to each of his horses and apologised. This speaks volumes.
I will watch with interest the developments in this situation and whether more shocking images emerge. And today, tomorrow and for the coming days I will hug my horse just a little bit more.