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Supporting Horse Welfare at the Kentucky Derby

Sunbelt Rentals Provides Electric Equipment to Help Keep Horses Calm Ahead of Kentucky Derby

FORT MILL, S.C. (May 3, 2023) – Sunbelt Rentals, a global leader in the equipment rental industry, has partnered with Churchill Downs, Inc. in a pilot project to swap internal combustion engine machines with electric equipment to create a safer, more comfortable environment for horses racing in this year’s 149th Kentucky Derby.

In advance of the Kentucky Derby, Sunbelt Rentals has provided Churchill Downs with four JCB Electric Telehandlers, one Toro E Dingo, and several energy storage system (ESS) units. The equipment is being utilized by the Churchill Downs backside crew to sweep barn rows, fill stalls, and move hay and feed, among other tasks happening in close proximity to the 1,400 horses housed onsite.

This electric equipment produces less noise and air pollution than the internal combustion engine equipment typically used by the backside crew. This is important for the health and safety of the horses which are very sensitive to their environment.

“Providing the latest in equipment technology that reduces noise, improves performance and eliminates jobsite emissions was in the best interest of the horses and the individuals working alongside them at Churchill Downs,” said Brent Coffey, director of product line management at Sunbelt Rentals. “Sunbelt Rentals’ is leading the market by investing in electric and alternative fueled equipment, along with the supporting infrastructure, to ensure we meet the ever-changing needs of our customers and their jobsites.” 

In the wild, horses use their sight and sound together to identify potential dangers. For horses in stalls, sudden and unidentified air and noise pollution like that of loud, internal combustion engines can cause fear and stress. This could trigger the horse’s flight response, creating a very unsafe environment for the horse, and anyone nearby.

Replacing these machines with electric equipment is a safe, simple, and effective way to minimize this risk and create a better environment for the horses. This, in turn, could improve a race horse's ability to perform, according to Dr. Will Farmer, Equine Medical Director for Churchill Downs.

“Horses are very keen to any kind of sudden environmental noise," said Dr. Will Farmer, Equine Medical Director for Churchill Downs. “Noise contamination can potentially decrease a horse's performance.”

Preliminary feedback from Churchill Downs' staff indicates that this low emission, low noise equipment has had a positive effect on the horses.