KHRC Panel Approves Helmet Regulation

Proposed regulation will be considered by full commission April 7.

A committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved a proposed regulation that would mandate safety helmets be worn by all licensed personnel – including exercise riders and trainers during morning training times – at all of the state’s tracks.

The regulation, unanimously approved April 6 by the safety and welfare committee, will be considered by the full KHRC during its April 7 regular monthly meeting.

“A licensee mounted on a horse or stable pony at a location under the jurisdiction of the commission shall wear a properly secured helmet at all times,” the regulation states, adding that the licensee will be responsible for assuring the helmet meets the standards of one of three international standards – American Society for Testing and Materials, UK Standards, or Australian/New Zealand Standard.

Final approval of the helmet regulation came after months of work by the committee, which reviewed different types of helmets commonly worn by jockeys, as well as the various differences in the standards required by the three bodies. Representatives of The Jockeys’ Guild were involved in the committee’s work, although none were present at the April 4 committee meeting.

Committee member Ned Bonnie questioned the part of the proposed regulation that leaves responsibility for compliance with the standards up to the licensee. Other committee members opined that like many rules and regulations passed by the KHRC, licensees would be required to comply and sanctions could be taken when they are found in non-compliance.

Dr. Mary Scollay, the commission’s equine medical director, explained it would be virtually impossible for commission personnel to inspect and certify that every helmet being worn meets the standards. “I don’t think we can perform the inspection and certify them,” she said.

Scollay and committee member Tom Ludt noted that any alterations made to the helmet by a rider or trainer – including changes to the padding – essentially void the standard ,and that would be a burdensome task to try and ensure compliance.

“It is not within the commission’s realm of making sure that every rule is being followed,” said committee chair Betsy Lavin.

If approved by the full commission, the regulation would undergo a review process before being enacted, a process that could take three to five months. Some Kentucky tracks, including Churchill Downs, presently require safety helmets for all licensed personnel under house rules.

Although the helmet regulation was the only action taken by the health and welfare committee, a number of other safety related topics were discussed by the members, four of whom are also on the KHRC.

Scollay reported the commission staff is preparing to conduct workshops for racetrack security personnel to educate them on the types of drugs and drug-related materials that can be found during stable area searches. She said one aspect of the training would include showing photographs of what is and is not allowed on the backstretch.

Scollay said the training would begin with a tutorial on how to identify whether shock-wave therapy machines are being used in the stable area. Only licensed veterinarians are permitted to conduct shock-waver therapy, which is not allowed within 10 days of a race.

Dr. Foster Northrop, a racetrack veterinarian who is on the committee and the KHRC, explained that the sound of shock-wave therapy equipment is easily identifiable, sounding like a jackhammer. Some committee members said they have heard reports of trainers using the devices, but none had first-hand information about such incidents. The committee also discussed if, and how, use of shock wave treatments could be detected in horses that are not stabled at the track and ship in to race and/or leave the track grounds and return.