The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition – a statewide group representing more than 10,000 trainers, owners and breeders of the horseracing industry in Pennsylvania – today called for a series of meetings on the state level made up of key stakeholders in the Pennsylvania horse racing industry with the goal of improving the health and safety of horses, jockey and harness drivers in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition's desire is to conduct a thorough review of existing regulations, as well as identify opportunities to strengthen regulations and their enforcement. Stakeholders to be included in the meetings and discussions would include representatives from the Pennsylvania horsemen and equine breeding associations, race track operators, the Pennsylvania State Horse and State Harness Racing Commissions, jockeys and harness drivers associations, as well as the working veterinary community.
“The Pennsylvania equine industry takes the safety and health of our horses, jockeys and drivers extremely seriously,” said Salvatore M. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. “Here in Pennsylvania, the equine industry and regulators meet on a regular basis to discuss a range of health and safety issues, ranging from medication and guidelines to track surface and breeding practices. Our members, working together with regulators and other stakeholders, need to continue to build upon the changes and success we have had in Pennsylvania by identifying additional opportunities to enhance the health and safety of our horses, jockeys, and drivers.”
“While the New York Times' analysis of racehorse injuries and incidents found that Pennsylvania's thoroughbred racetracks were all better than the national average, we recognize that when it comes to safety and health of horses, jockeys, and riders, there are always opportunities to make further improvements,” said Todd Mostoller, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. “Presque Isle Downs in particular demonstrated the best safety rates in the country, due in large part to the installation of Tapeta Footings, a synthetic racing surface. The installation of the surface was made possible through a financial commitment made by Presque Isle Downs and our association. Even so, the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition hopes these meetings will help identify further opportunities for improvements related to health and safety.”
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition highlighted a number of aggressive changes in Pennsylvania that have taken place – many within the past three years — designed to improve health and safety in horse racing and address past problems or concerns. These include:
In the last 5 years the horsemen have given New Bolton Center over $1 million for research and testing for drugs.
Reducing the permissible level of Phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often referred to as bute, by 60 percent — from 5mg/ml to 2 mg/ml (August 2010).
Prohibition of the use of Capsaicin and any products which contain Capsaicin, with a positive test resulting in a Class 1 medication violation. Research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania concluded the use of Capsaicin topically on equine joints may have an analgesic effect. The use of red pepper in the daily care of horses has been discouraged. (November 2010)
New policy guidelines were adopted discouraging the use of the anti-inflammatory Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) being administered topically, intravenously, or orally on race day and establishing a threshold of 10mg/ml for violations. This threshold had the effect of essentially banning the use of DMSO within 48 hours of a race.
Prohibition of the use of anabolic and androgenic steroids was adopted in November 2007, with direction to discontinue use as of December 1, 2007.
Ban on inter-articular injections of corticosteroids within 7 days of a race, the only state in the country to put in place this requirement.
Mandatory pre-race inspections for all participants
Partnership between operator and Horsemen to install Tapeta Footings track surface at Presque Isle, a $6.4 million expense, which has resulted in Presque Isle having the lowest breakdown or incident rate in the country according to the New York Times' analysis. The Horsemen's contribution was made possible by Act 71, The Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.
Implementation of pre-race test for plasma total carbon dioxide (TCO2) concentration to detect “milk shaking,” which is the administration of a mixture of bicarbonate, sugar and other substances to enhance racehorse performance
Daily interaction between track superintendents and horsemen regarding track surface to help avoid incidents and injuries.
Establishment of highly respected horse retirement programs by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (PTHA), which races at Parx, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association (PHBPA) at Penn National Racetrack. Horsemen organizations have partnered with the track operators to establish programs to find racing thoroughbreds new homes after their racing careers have ended. Ex-race horses find new careers as polo ponies, trail horses, therapeutic riding horses, event horses, and even Western reining horses.
The Coalition also noted that the New York Times article focused heavily on quarter horse racing, a form of racing that is not legally permitted in Pennsylvania. In fact, Pennsylvania does not even permit betting on quarter horse races via simulcasts. As such, attempting to make comparisons to the legalized and regulated thoroughbred and standardbred racing in Pennsylvania would be unfair.While the Coalition noted its members do not necessarily agree with all of the conclusions or statements contained in the reporting, they are appreciative of the attention that it has brought to this important issue.
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