More than 60 racing industry stakeholders representing regulators, horsemen and racetrack operators from the seven states that comprise the Mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia), 11 jurisdictions, and 17 racetracks convened at Delaware Park Oct. 2 to take the next steps toward implementation of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities. The most important member of racing community was not at the table, but was the voice heard most loudly during nearly six hours of discussion.
“If we had a horse in the room with us today, what would he ask of us?” New York's Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer challenged the group. “That is what must guide us. That is our mandate.”
With that in mind, the alliance agreed unanimously to immediately move to adopt rules that will prohibit the administration of any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to a horse within 48 hours of a race, and all intra-articular joint injections within 14 days of a race.
“NSAIDs and corticosteroids are therapeutic treatments used not just here in the U.S., but worldwide, to the benefit of the health of the horse,” Dr. Palmer explained. “However, sound medical practice dictates that we allow our veterinarians and horsemen the proper time to evaluate these horses following treatment and before returning them to high-speed exercise. Amending our regulations to reflect this best practice is a vital step in implementing the Strategic Plan.”
The Mid-Atlantic stakeholders, which announced a ban on the use of bisphosphonates in horses under the age of four in March, also formally adopted a model rule to effectuate the ban.
Dr. Palmer gave presentations on risk management programs, mortality review protocols, and injury clusters. Professor Mick Peterson, Ph.D., who serves as director of the University of Kentucky's Agricultural Equine Programs and is Executive Director of the not-for-profit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, provided a presentation on track maintenance and how the region can develop and implement best practices to assess racing surfaces to ensure a consistently safe racing environment.
All participating jurisdictions completed a 27-point Gap Analysis of the Strategic Plan's requirements prior to the meeting and their efforts to fully implement the Plan were reviewed. This analysis covers topics including claiming and medication regulations, track maintenance, trainer and veterinarian education, the collection and review of equine and rider injury data, and risk management.
“The results of the Gap Analysis will be used to prioritize our goals,” said Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. “We will work to develop best practices for every element of the Strategic Plan. This is a living document. We will refine our goals as we go through the process and we will also provide updates on our progress. The unanimous adoption of the medication rules at Wednesday's meeting demonstrates a united commitment to the health and welfare of the horse, and is just one of many steps that will be taken to achieve our goals.”
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