Horsemen’s groups, racetrack operators and racing regulators, as well as regulatory and practicing veterinarians, breeders’ organizations and lab directors, came together in Wilmington, Delaware, Mar. 21, for the annual Mid-Atlantic Regulatory Meeting. The four-hour conference covered a number of topics, but the focal point of discussion was the unveiling of the Strategic Plan to Reduce Racehorse Fatalities. Before the end of the meeting, those gathered were unanimous in support of the initiative, which will be adopted in every racing jurisdiction from New York to Virginia.
“We’ve been a leader on racehorse safety in the Mid-Atlantic, the numbers show it, but we cannot rest on our laurels,” said Joe Appelbaum, President of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (THA) and the New York THA. “We need to focus on protecting our horses, and there’s only one way to do it – collaboratively, collectively and comprehensively. We all have to contribute.”
Dr. Scott Palmer, the Equine Medical Director for New York, presented the Strategic Plan to the 70-plus stakeholders in attendance. The product of several months of development, it incorporates five key goals, including the establishment of regional safety best practices and improved methods to identify horses at increased risk of injury, the implementation of protective factors to reduce the risk of injury, and the improvement of the general health of the horse.
“Our Plan is, and has to be, the number one priority for the racing industry,” said Dr. Palmer. “The decrease in equine fatalities in the Mid-Atlantic region over the last four years is due in no small part to the introduction and embrace of a multitude of safety initiatives. That’s a good piece of news. It is important to recognize the progress we have made and encourage other jurisdictions to follow. Now we have to get behind this Plan in an aggressive fashion going forward.”
There are 14 racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region, representing approximately 90,000 starts a year. The equine racing fatality rate fell 29% between 2012 and 2018, largely due to recommendations implemented from the report by the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety in 2012.
The introduction to the Strategic Plan explains, “The conscientious use of risk management techniques, including the introduction of protective factors, have been proven to be successful in reducing the risk of injury to racehorses. However, the use of risk management programs is not uniformly practiced across all racing jurisdictions. The development of a strategic plan to reduce equine fatalities in the Mid-Atlantic region is an effort to develop and share regional best practices and communication tools that can be used to minimize equine fatalities on a broad scale.”
Alan Foreman, Chairman of the THA and organizer of the Mid-Atlantic Regulatory Meeting, was a member of the Task Force. He acknowledged the strides taken by the industry, but emphasized, “We have got to do better. The fatality rate is still too high. We have to continue to learn from our experiences and make the changes and adopt the reforms that we know will make things better for our horses and our industry.”
The Plan was drafted by Foreman, Dr. Palmer, and former AAEP Presidents and respected regional veterinarians Dr. Kathleen Anderson and Dr. Reynolds Cowles.
The industry organizations represented at the Mid-Atlantic Regulatory Meeting included:
|Charles Town HBPA|
|Darby Development (Monmouth Park)|
|Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission|
|Hollywood Casino at Charles Town|
|Hollywood Casino at Penn National|
|Maryland Horse Breeders’ Association|
|Maryland Jockey Club|
|Maryland Racing Commission|
|Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|National Steeplechase Association|
|New Jersey Racing Commission|
|New Jersey Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association|
|New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|New York State Gaming Commission|
|New York Racing Association|
|New York Thoroughbred Breeders’, Inc.|
|New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|Penn National Gaming|
|Pennsylvania Horse Breeders’ Association|
|Pennsylvania Racing Commission|
|Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association|
|West Virginia Racing Commission|