The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission seems to be leaving no stone unturned when it comes to the safety and welfare of horses, addressing the progress made on old issues raised at its last meeting and looking at new innovations and ideas to improve on what has already been put in place. One of the new topics on the top of the list at the latest Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting, which was held on 1 December 2008, was the licensing of training centers so as to be able to instill rules and regulations ensuring the safety of horses.
One of the main reasons that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is looking at the licensing of training centers is due to the fourth fire that broke out at Riverside Downs on 20 November. In the last five years this facility has suffered three other fires, and three of the fires claimed the lives of horses. One of the fires destroyed the grandstand, as Riverside Downs was originally a Quarter Horse racing and Standardbred horse racing facility. Only live horse racing facilities are required to have licenses, and have to therefore abide by strict regulations. Training facilities are not required to uphold certain standards and are not monitored by racing authorities. The commission feels strongly that stricter safety measures need to be enforced at these facilities, over and above the starting gates and track surfaces, to ensure that tragedies and the unnecessary loss of life can be prevented. Committee members will therefore be looking at putting standard rules and regulations together for training facilities.
Other safety measures that were looked at included the wearing of vests by jockeys. The rules of racing do specify that jockeys should be wearing vests to protect themselves from injury, but as these rules are not enforced, very few jockeys opt for wearing vests as some vests restrict mobility or are considered too heavy. The new regulation in regard to whips, or crops, was also reviewed and has stipulated the minimum and maximum weight, length, flap size, binding regulations and shock absorbing features. The new rules in regard to whips are so specific that no leniency will be given in regard to them. These regulations were created to ensure that as little, or no pain, is inflicted on the horse, but that it remains an effected tool during racing.
The new issues looked at by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will create a more humane and safer environment for horses. All the changes made by the commission so far have been welcomed, as every decision they have made has been with the safety of horses and jockeys in mind.