Horse Racing Ireland has said it will work to rebuild the damaged reputation of the industry in the fallout from the photograph of leading trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse.
Elliott will face an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board hearing on Friday in relation to the controversial photograph which emerged in recent days.
Irish jockey Rob James has also apologised after a video of him mounting a dead horse emerged on social media.
The IRHB is set to deal with both cases, but it has led to fears for horse racing in this country after widespread criticism of the incidents.
John Osborne, equine welfare and bloodstock director for HRI, told RTÉ Sport today that their previous good work, and their promises to ensure the safety of the animals, will help them recover.
"We're proud to participate in an industry which is a world leader. The videos and images seen recently would in no way reflect the dedication and hard work of the staff that make that happen.
"The measure of our success is most notable on the racecourses but it really is the culmination of long hours of hard work by thousands of staff showing up every day to make those equine athletes as good as they can be. For them such images are disappointing because they don’t reflect the reality.
"We are disappointed yes but it’s not that the industry is that kind of industry. It is a caring industry and people industry. You just have to visit these yards and we do so on a regular basis. We see the camaraderie, enthusiasm and energy that the stable staff bring to their work.
"For them the horse is the centre of everything they do. It is more than a job for most of them. It is a relationship between them and their horses. It’s a team game more than people realise. It takes a team of people to build success to what has become the greatest racing nation on earth.
Osborne feels that racing can bounce back from the controversy and that the public will put faith in it once more.
"Irish racing is looked to for the best horses and the best people. Anything that impinges on that reputation is damaging. I do think that we have been doing this for decades at a very high standard. People will come to realise these were isolated incidents, albeit disappointing.
"The success will continue. Reputation is very important in this industry and we are very proud of the reputation that has taken so long to build. We will build on that in the future.
"All our decision making is centred around the horse. From birth until its final breath is of the highest standard. Racehorses are among the best cared for animals in the world. After death it doesn’t stop. We expect horses are treated in dignity even in death. That is why the images disturbed people because we maybe we lost a bit of that in these isolated incidents."
Elliott has dozen of employees working at his yard – and their future is also at stake as he awaits the IRHB hearing.
Osborne believes horses will be cared for regardless of who is at the helm.
"It is a team sport. The horses will be looked after through all of this. The licence holder is the leader but the horses will be cared for beneath that."