Racehorse Welfare and Safety Recommendations Released

Edited press release
A cross-section of prominent participants from the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry who participated in the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in Lexington, on Oct. 16-17, have drafted recommended action plans in six areas to potentially improve conditions in various facets of the Thoroughbred industry.

As the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit does not have any authority to implement these recommendations, the proposed strategic plan will be forwarded to potential responsible parties for their consideration. Full Text of Welfare and Safety Summit Plan (PDF)

The summit was coordinated and underwritten by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club, and hosted by Keeneland Association in Lexington, Ky.

The six areas are Education & Licensing, Racing Conditions / Racing Office, Research, Health & Medical Records, Racing Surfaces / Shoeing / Hoof Care, and Breeding Practices.

Among the recommendations coming out of the two-day summit were:
--Research, develop and publish additional statistics that will provide insight into the durability and longevity of progeny of breeding stock.
--Distribute scientific research more widely among industry stakeholders.
--Examine the use or ban of certain horseshoes, such as toe-grabs.
--Develop a uniform on-track injury reporting system for horses and humans.
--Provide continuing education for all horsemen, exercise riders and farriers and make initiatives such as the Groom Elite Program more accessible throughout the country.

The goal of the summit was to identify critical issues that affect horse health and/or shorten the career of racehorses and to develop action plans to address each issue.

"I think the turnout and the interest in this summit proves that there is widespread concern among industry stakeholders about the welfare and safety of the racehorse," said Ed Bowen, president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "The summit was certainly successful in identifying issues and devising action plans and we're grateful to all the participants who were here."

Nick Nicholson, the president and chief executive officer of Keeneland, echoed those thoughts. "This summit was a great step forward," he said. "I commend Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and The Jockey Club for putting this together. Now that we have identified issues and possible solutions, we need to roll up our sleeves and do the work."

The Oct. 16 morning session was open to the public and it included presentations by five noted veterinarians and several panel discussions, which were moderated by Bowen.

Panelists discussed the relationships of breeding, training, veterinary practice, race track surfaces, and track management as they affect longevity of racing careers and racehorse soundness.

Closed discussions in breakout groups, facilitated by a team of staff members from The Jockey Club, were held on the afternoon of Oct. 16.

The participants were separated into six groups. Each group was asked to list at least three critical issues associated with the decline in the racing careers of Thoroughbred horses over the last 50 years in terms of fewer years raced and fewer starts per year and to list action plans for each issue.

While injuries are a key component of shorter careers, participants were asked to look at all factors, such as track surfaces, training and breeding practices, economics of racing versus breeding, and medication.

Several weeks before the summit, participants were provided with packets that contained research papers, articles, statistics and public comments that addressed these factors. At the end of Monday's session, the moderator from each group presented their findings.

On the evening of Oct. 16, participants received write-ups on the day's discussions and were asked to prioritize the issues in terms of importance. One other area of concern involved medication. Those recommendations will be sent to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

Before breaking off into strategic planning sessions on the morning of Oct. 17, attendees heard a brief presentation from farrier Mitch Taylor and a presentation on the creation of a standardized on-track injury reporting system from Drs. Karin Opacich and Mary Scollay.

In the strategic planning sessions, each group focused on the issues and developed a primary objective, related objective, criteria for success, tasks, responsible parties, resources, and a timeline to address their issue.

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has allocated $957,260 to underwrite 20 research projects at 12 universities in 2006, including 12 new projects and the continuation of 8 two-year projects approved in 2005. Foundation-funded research helps not only Thoroughbreds and racing, but all breeds and uses of horses. Since 1983 the foundation has underwritten 210 projects at 32 universities for more than $13 million.