EXTRA veterinary support and water stations are being drafted in for this weekend's Scottish Grand National following the death of two horses at last year's event.

Organisers also face increased scrutiny in the wake of two equine deaths at the Grand National at Aintree, which has prompted an animal welfare charity to demand "drastic changes".

An additional vet, vet nurses and an extra horse ambulance will be on hand to treat any casualties during Saturday's race at Ayr Racecourse.

Organisers have also tasked additional staff to man watering points, which are located in the winners' enclosure, unsaddling area, on the track, stable yards and on the walkway off the course.

Emma Marley, clerk of the course for Ayr Racecourse, pointed out there have been no such fatalities this year at Ayr.

She said: "There are very few comparisons that can be drawn between the English and Scottish Grand Nationals, other than they are both jump races.

"Equine and jockey welfare is our primary concern at all times and everything is done to minimise the risks of racing."

Regal Heights and Minella Four Star collapsed and died at the end of the Scottish Grand National last year.

Both are thought to have suffered from internal bleeding and were the first fatalities in the race since 2002.

Ms Marley added: "Our course is a flat, galloping oval track rather than the wide, twisty, sometimes undulating course with tight turns at Aintree.

"The very unfortunate fatalities we had in the race last year were not as a result of falls – both horses were pulled up on the flat – nor the course, and were both the result of internal injuries which led to the horses to being humanely destroyed."

The steeplechase event exceeds the British Horseracing Authority's minimum requirement of three vets and one horse ambulance by providing four vets, two vet nurses and two horse ambulances.

Ayr Racecourse bosses also say the four-mile course is shorter than the Grand National by half-a-mile, the fences are smaller and the maximum field of 27 runners is far less than the 40 permitted at Aintree.

However, Fin Robertson, of Edinburgh-based animal protection charity OneKind, said: "If you're saying you're slightly better than the Grand National it probably isn't good enough still because these races are steeplechases.

"I don't think it makes a huge amount of difference.

"You're still asking the horses to jump.

"We wouldn't condone it and we still don't think that's any safer or any less risky for the animals involved."

Meanwhile, the British Horseracing Authority chief executive, Paul Bittar, has spoken of his belief that changes implemented since last year's Grand National need time to be judged.

The deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete brought the number of fatalities since 1996 at the world-famous Liverpool race to 18.

The RSPCA has added its voice to calls from animal welfare charities for a radical overhaul of the race, including a revision of the competitor numbers, race length, and jump design, particularly into "drop" fences such as Becher's Brook.

Paul Nicholls, trainer of winning horse Neptune Collonges, also backed calls for improved safety at the course.

Louise Robertson, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "We need to take a much stronger stance on this.

"I don't believe the National can continue in its current form.

"Drastic changes have to be made if it's to have any future."

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "Horseracing is a very well-regulated activity and we are pleased Ayr Racecourse go beyond the requirements for the Scottish National. In this way, Ayr is demonstrating a strong commitment to animal welfare and safety."