US Racing Industry Pursues Safer Racing Environment

Attended by owners, breeders, horsemen, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians, track managers and regulators, the recent two-day Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held in Lexington, Kentucky, addressed a number of issues related to the topic. The first session of the event called for transparency of veterinary records and included an update on the National Uniform Medication Program…

This program is working toward national uniformity in the use of medication for racehorses in line with international standards, as well as uniformity in penalties for breaking the rules, and making penalties sufficiently punitive to act as a deterrent.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s equine medical director, Dr Mary Scollay, noted that the industry should not view racing fatalities as “part of the game”, going on to say that “No stakeholder benefits from the death of a horse.” California Horse Racing Board equine medical director, Dr Rick Arthur, expressed his belief that the horse racing industry needs a “robust out-of-competition testing program” as a facet of research and development of new drugs. Trainer Gary Contessa made a call for transparency with vet records for the benefit of horses and to avoid breakdowns. Referring to the case of Barbaro, who was injured during the Preakness and subsequently succumbed to laminitis, racehorse owner Bill Casner pointed out that the industry must “continue to work to reduce catastrophic injuries”, going on to say that these have a catastrophic effect on the industry.

Presentations and panel discussions explored relationships between owners, trainers and veterinarians, as well as focusing on racetrack surfaces, ongoing education for trainers, bone development in racehorses, and the Jockey Injury Database which was initiated in 2012 for the purpose of gathering information on jockey injuries and using that information to prevent similar incidents in the future. With the emphasis on confidentiality, information gathered includes how, when and where injuries were incurred, the nature of injuries, what type of equipment the jockey was using and other factors. As with the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the Jockey Injury Database aims to create a safer racing environment.