AAEP offers veterinary guidelines for horse racing

AAEP offers veterinary guidelines for horse racing

Safety, medication and welfare top concerns in association guidelines
Mar 01, 2009

Lexington, KY. — The Thoroughbred racing industry has been on a mission following a Congressional hearing last year to prove that it can improve safety and medication issues without government regulation.

Now the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) is throwing additional weight behind that effort, issuing a white paper that provides veterinary guidelines aimed at putting horses' safety and welfare ahead of economic and other interests.

"We'd like to think that if our horses could read this document, they would be pleased," says Scott Palmer, DVM, of Clarksburg, N.J., who chaired the AAEP's Racing Task Force, a group of 35 private racetrack practitioners, regulatory veterinarians and veterinary specialists who worked since last summer to develop the white paper. Foster Northrop, DVM, of Louisville, Ky., served as vice chair of the group that is now a standing AAEP committee.

Titled "Putting the horse first: Veterinary recommendations for the safety and welfare of the Thoroughbred racehorse," the paper offers guidelines in four key areas: the public perception of racing, medication, the veterinarian-owner-trainer relationship and the racing business model.

It also recommends some changes to the structure of claiming races and medication of horses intended for sale a public auction.

"This is a critical time for the racing industry, and we join the efforts of other groups who are determined to make improvements for the health of our equine athletes," says AAEP President Dr. Harry Werner, of North Granby, Conn.

In the paper, the AAEP says it backs efforts by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the Jockey Club and others to develop a strategic plan for change, stating "It is imperative that the industry urgently demonstrate an ability to affect sweeping change without government intervention." It recommends continued collaboration of all major racing groups, racetracks and others in the nation's 38 racing jurisdictions.

Among the AAEP's key recommendations in the paper:

  • Industrywise adoption of uniform rules for medication usage, testing, security and enforcement
  • Continued implementation of procedures to reduce substantially the injury rate of horses
  • Standardization and enhancement of pre-race and post-race veterinary examinations, with mandatory cross-jurisdictional sharing of information
  • Adoption of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) model medication rules
  • Complete transparency for the veterinarian-trainer-owner relationship in all aspects of health-care decisions
  • Development of a program for rehabilitation, retraining and adoption of horses when their racing careers are over, supporting a secondary market for them
  • Increased racetrack security to ensure compliance with medication rules

"In a unique climate of widespread industry commitment to fix what is wrong with racing, veterinarians have made every effort to put the horse first. It is fair to say that particular recommendations will resonate with some individuals and alienate others in the industry," Palmer says.