Heat Turned Up on California Regulators After Horse Death

by | 07.20.2013 | 10:40am
An outrider's pony gets a quick shower on a hot day at the track

California officials are taking steps toward establishing heat restrictions for racing in the state after 2-year-old filly Reno Lucky Lady collapsed and died following a race at the State Fair. The California Horse Racing Board's Medication and Track Safety Committee began examining the issue of high temperatures on Friday, as triple-digit temperatures are forecasted for the weekend.

Currently, officials calculate a Heat Stress Index to determine whether competition is safe by adding together the temperature and humidity percentage. A Heat Stress Index value of 180 is enough to cancel racing, according to CHRB state veterinarian Rick Arthur, but that value is rarely reached in a state with low humidity.

Arthur said that above Heat Stress Index values of 130, a horse begins to have trouble dissipating heat. A unusually hot day can also put stress on a horse who isn't used to the climate.

“Oftentimes, an animal may not be acclimated to a (higher) temperature,” Arthur told the Sacramento Bee. “They're not adjusted to the heat.”

Ice buckets and water hoses are on hand for horses in California before and after the race.

Cal Expo racing director David Elliot said the state fair takes additional precautions when the index reaches 150 and “would consider canceling races in extreme heat.”

Read more at The Sacramento Bee

  • old horse lover

    ON and On it goes.Fill them full of Lazix,dehydrate them, then run them in heat.
    Even if they don’t die over heating and dehydration effects every organ in their bodies and sets them up for more problems from the effected organs down the road.

    • nu-fan

      Reno Lucky Lady was only two years old. That is roughly equivalent to a 7th or 8th grader in human years. Whether the cause of death is Lasix, the heat, something else, or some combination of all of these, this young horse should not have died without a thorough investigation! The summer fair circuit is run in the valleys of California during the hottest times of the years. That, in itself, needs to be really addressed. While San Francisco is in the 60 degree days, the valleys are often in the triple digits. And these races are run during the late afternoons where heat peaks around 4:00-6:00. I trust that Dr. Arthur will do what is in the interests of the horses. By the way, this concern about heat is also relevant to Santa Anita, which is also inland. Great article written by Debbie Arrington who is the Sac Bee’s reporter on horseracing! Hope that everyone follows this up by thoroughly looking at its contents once the necropsy report is issued.

  • Beach

    Please take care with this–despite the ice buckets and hoses, if it’s too hot, you probably won’t be able to cool them down fast enough–and “fast cooling” is not particularly advisable anyway–too much of a shock to the system physiologically. The sudden cardiac deaths are bad enough–you don’t want this, either. Safety for all, I hope…

  • Richard C

    These ongoing stories are the end result of disposable athletes — the real and vicious “Meat on the Hoof”.

  • harry

    I have never heard anything so absurd. Today hi in Sacramento is 102 that should be enough to cancel racing period. Humidity should have nothing to do with a decision to race or not. This week on East Coast tracks have been running with 96 degree heat with humidity 105-110 heat index.Delaware Park,Parx and yesterday Saratoga. Nobody and I mean nobody cares about horses or humans to have racing in such conditions.Dr.Arthur how would you like to run as fast as you could in such heat????? Delaware Park is the worst I have ever seen when it comes to running in such horrible heat. Where is management and vets when such heat occurs. Little wonder horse racing is on decline with such terrible race track management.

    • nu-fan

      And, the weekend before the State Fair and the races at Cal Expo started, the weather reached 110 degrees in Sacramento. Would they have called off the races that day? In fact, this was during a string of days of over 105 degree days. Thankfully, the temps have dropped to a “mere” 102 and the high 90s, but I can tell you that it is hot. The paddock area does have a few water mister/fans but I don’t know how effective they are. Wonder if night time racing could be explored since Sacramento usually receives the Delta breezes as the sun sets and the temps go down quickly into the 70s and 80s? The track does have lighting. My main concern, however, is whether other eyes (besides those in the CHRB) can look at the necropsy report to see how valid and reliable its conclusions are. Hope that happens.

  • Craig Brogden

    Why not ban Salix if the heat index is above 130. Horses manage to run in the high temperatures of Australia without issues related to the heat. #nolasix.
    Dehydration by medication prior to running in the heat is the most likely cause of heat related death!

  • betterthannothing

    The excessive heat is already tough enough especially for drugged and chemically dehydrated horses before their giving “all they’ve got” under the whip to satisfy owners and gamblers but it is not the first Sherman horse to drop dead including in the morning and it probably will not be the last, unfortunately.

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