AAEP Releases Recommendations for Protecting the Safety and Welfare of Standardbred Racehorses

Following the creation of veterinary guidelines to protect the safety and welfare of racing Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has adapted these recommendations for the harness racing industry. The white paper, "Putting the Horse First: Veterinary Recommendations for the Safety and Welfare of the Standardbred Racehorse," provides breed-specific guidance on many issues impacting the horse in the current racing environment.

"Standardbred racehorses typically race more often and experience longer careers than other racing breeds," said Scott Palmer, VMD, the AAEP Racing Committee chairman. "And while the injury rate is low in Standardbred racing due to the horse's unique style, we believe there are many enhancements that can be made to improve safety and overall horse care."

Key points in the paper include:

  • Standardization and enhancement of pre-race and post-race veterinary examinations across the 17 jurisdictions with harness racing in the United States.
  • Consistent participation by Standardbred racetracks in a national injury reporting system.
  • Adoption of best practice procedures that emphasize safety of the racing surface.
  • Increased racetrack security to ensure compliance by all racing participants with medication rules. Many Standardbred racehorses are stabled at training centers or fairgrounds and arrive at the racetrack on the day of a race.
  • A modified structure for claiming races which allows claims to be rescinded if the post-race drug test is positive. Horses that do not finish the race or those that sustain a catastrophic injury during the race or while leaving the track should remain the property of the original owner unless the individual with the claim decides to accept the horse.

Recommendations within the white paper are focused in four key areas: the racing business model, the owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship, medication, and the public perception of racing. The paper was developed by the Standardbred Subcommittee of the AAEP's Racing Committee, a group comprised of private racetrack practitioners, regulatory veterinarians and veterinary specialists. Palmer of Clarksburg, N.J., and Foster Northrop, DVM, of Louisville, Ky., serve as chair and vice chair, respectively.

The AAEP intends its white paper to provide guidance and support to those who working to bring meaningful change. "As an organization with the primary mission of protecting the health and welfare of the horse, the safety of the all breeds of racehorses is one of our highest priorities," explained AAEP President Dr. Nathaniel White. "We are eager to assist in reforming or instituting practices that will put the horse first and benefit the Standardbred racing industry in the future."

The white paper is available on the AAEP website. For more information, contact Sally Baker, AAEP director of marketing and public relations, at 859/233-0147 or sbaker@aaep.org.

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