The Thoroughbred Safety Coalition is implementing a series of medical, operational, and organizational reforms across the thoroughbred racing industry to ensure the well-being of horses and jockeys, increase transparency and accountability and secure the future of the sport.
Protecting our athletes demands an industry-wide effort that touches on every facet of horse racing. We have developed an extensive set of reform initiatives and standards to ensure that every horse is fit to race and every surface fit to race on, every time. This requires all our sport’s stakeholders to hold themselves, and each other, thoroughly accountable.
Our most pressing commitment is to unify everyone involved around these initiatives and standards, and the urgency of their full implementation. These reforms are vital, but they’re also only a beginning. We’re committed to pressing forward, and aligning our industry, on emerging best practices for athlete safety.
- Phase out the use of the medication Furosemide (Lasix)
The Thoroughbred Safety Coalition Founding Member tracks have expressed their commitment to phasing out the use of the medication Lasix. This effort begins in 2020 with the prohibition of Lasix in two-year old horses within a minimum of 24 hours of a race. Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition will extend to all horses participating in stakes race at any Coalition track. Accordingly, in 2021, the races comprising the Triple Crown will all be run under the new rules regarding race day medication. The Coalition will continue to work with veterinarians, scientists, and other experts in the field to establish next steps with the safety and wellbeing of our equine athletes as the top priority.
- Increase the withdrawal time for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to 48 hours pre-race
NSAIDs are frequently prescribed as anti-inflammatories for horses. While these drugs can help reduce a fever, or mitigate pain associated with an injury or chronic disease—as ibuprofen can with humans—they can also increase a horse’s ability to withstand pain, masking the potential severity of an underlying issue.
- Prohibit concurrent usage of multiple NSAIDs
Administering two or more kinds of NSAIDs simultaneously (“stacking,” as it’s called) can similarly increase a horse’s ability to withstand pain and mask the potential severity of an underlying issue.
- Increase the withdrawal time for corticosteroids to 14 days pre-race
Corticosteroids can be used to treat lameness in horses, alleviating pain and decreasing inflammation from arthritic joints, potentially improving performance and longevity. But these drugs can also mask the severity of pain a horse is suffering form, potentially cutting short the athlete’s necessary healing time.
- Prohibit concurrent usage of multiple corticosteroids
“Stacking” corticosteroids can likewise conceal pain a horse may be experiencing and cause broader health risks, as well.
- Prohibit the use of bisphosphonates on horses in training or racing, with a penalty of 12 months on the vets’ list if detected
Bisphosphonates are commonly and properly used to treat Navicular syndrome in older horses. Navicular syndrome causes lameness with the formation of bone spurs that wear against tissues surrounding the Navicular bone—causing pain deep in a horse’s foot. Bisphosphonates prevent the formation of these spurs by preventing the removal of diseased bone cells—which must occur before new bone can be laid down at that site. Young horses’ bones necessarily undergo remodeling as they train, building stronger bone. While bone remodeling is a problem in Navicular syndrome, it’s also critical to the good health of normal young horses. Bisphosphonates impede bone remodeling, and their use in young horses presents an increased risk of bone failure or fracture. Like NSAIDs and corticosteroids, bisphosphonates can also mask pain, which can create further complexity for young horses. Horses may not perceive any pain associated with the bone weakened by bisphosphonate use.
- Regulate extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
This technique is commonly used for treating orthopedic problems in horses, including tendon and ligament injuries, navicular syndrome, and arthritis. As with any medical treatment, the proper use ESWT requires strict protocols. The Coalition is now in the process of drafting and implementing a policy that will mandate a minimum number of days on the vet list, as well as a central location for testing in all jurisdictions where this treatment is used.
- Work with state racing commissions to apply racing regulations surrounding prohibited substances and restrict selected therapeutic substances in proximity to high-speed works
High-speed trainings require horses to exert an amount of physical effort that is equivalent or similar to the amount exerted during a race. Therefore, the risk of masking or amending clinical injury presentation associated with the administration of various substances and medications before a race are also present during high-speed workouts. To this end, Coalition tracks and members are committed to working with state racing commissions to apply the withdrawal times and controls for medications leading up to a race to high-speed exercise as outlined below to ensure that every horse is fit to run before setting foot on the track:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, local anesthetics, and opioid analgesics may be administered for high speed works consistent with racing regulations.
- Intra-articular corticosteroids may be administered consistent with 7-day withdrawal guidance for betamethasone, triamcinolone, and isoflupredone and 21-day withdrawal guidance for methylprednisolone. Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids are restricted based upon limit of detection.
- Prohibit administration of external treatments, therapies and musculoskeletal manipulation within at least 24 hours of a race
In order to protect the integrity of the sport, all treatments and physical therapies such as (but not limited to) acupuncture (dry or wet), chiropractic manipulation, laser, nebulization, infrasonic or ultrasonic therapy phonophoresis/iontophoresis, electrical stimulation, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), hyperbaric oxygen therapy, are expressly prohibited within 24 hours of post time for a race. Like medication, these treatments have the capacity to mask or amend a horse’s clinical presentation during a pre-race veterinary examination and impede an assessment of the horse’s fitness to race.
- Work with state racing commissions to implement a clenbuterol prohibition in racing and training along with reporting/procedural requirements as outlined by the RMTC
Coalition tracks and members will work with state racing commissions to prohibit the use of clenbuterol in racing and training as outlined by the RMTC. The increased restrictions, which are also supported by the ARCI Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee and being added to the Model Rules, require any veterinarian who prescribes clenbuterol for a horse to report the horse’s name and the specific diagnosis, dosage and duration of treatment, which cannot exceed 30 days, to the official/regulatory veterinarian. Any horse receiving clenbuterol will be placed on the Veterinarians’ List and must meet all conditions from removal from the list, including a timed workout, blood and urine sampling. Neither sample can contain clenbuterol in order to be removed from the list. Additionally, the trainer will be required to make daily notification to the official/regulatory veterinarian of all horses in their custody receiving the medication and cannot enter a horse until it has completed all requirements.
- Adopt “voided claim” rules to help protect unsound horses from continuing to compete and injuring themselves further
A “claiming race” is a race in which all of the horses entered are often for sale, and anyone who is licensed to own race horses may buy (or “claim”) a horse beforehand. Following the race, the ownership of the horse will transfer. The purpose of a voided claim rule is to prevent such a transfer of ownership if a horse is injured during the claiming race. Such a rule can also permit the purchaser to void a claim if a veterinarian determines the horse to be lame after the race.
- Mandate direct daily reporting by vets to regulatory officials
Private veterinarians are currently not required to report directly to regulatory offices on their treatments or exams each day. Doing so will further help determine if a horse is fit to race and will provide a longer-term view of a horse’s overall health and welfare.
- Perform random, out-of-competition testing on horses without limitation
Any horse in training to race should be considered a candidate for random testing designed to reveal the use of any substances that may put the horse’s welfare—as well as the integrity of a horse racing competition—at risk.
- Adopt a uniform riding-crop rule, limiting crop use and defining crop specifications
The riding crop, regularly seen in the hands of almost every jockey during a race, can be used as a way to encourage horses or correct their direction (e.g., a tap to the shoulder signifies to a trained horse to move away from that tap, which can help avoid cutting off other horses, collisions, etc.).
- Mandate necropsies on all fatally injured or ill horses
In the event of a fatality, post-mortem exams are essential in order to identify the role of any underlying injuries or health issues a horse may have been experiencing. All exams should be conducted by a board-certified pathologist. The results will be used to look for patterns and develop additional medical and operational reforms, as needed.
- Enforce minimum timed thoroughbred working requirements
Such requirements help ensure that horses can be appropriately evaluated and accurately assessed prior to entering a race. While these standards are currently in place in some regions, such as California and New York, we are working to standardize and strengthen guidelines among a broader set of race tracks and jurisdictions.
- Strengthen race entry and eligibility requirements
Strengthening entry and eligibility requirements for races, such as mandating an increasing number of workouts based on the amount of time since a horse’s last start or prohibiting horses that are six years old and upward from starting for the first time, prevents horses that may have pre-existing conditions or are otherwise unfit to compete from entering a race. Requiring a work over controlled distances for horses that have not raced in 30 days or multiple workouts over similarly controlled distances depending on the number of days off significantly reduces the risk of breakdown or catastrophic injury during a race. Additionally, a horse that has not worked in 180 days or more will be required to undergo a veterinary examination before returning.
- Strengthen requirements for removal from the racetrack Veterinarians’ List
The regulatory/official veterinarian at Coalition tracks maintains the Veterinarians’ List of all horses determined to be ineligible to compete in a race due to illness, physical distress, unsoundness, injury, infirmity, heat exhaustion, positive test or overage, administration of a medication invoking a mandatory stand down time, administration of shockwave therapy, positive out of competition test or any other assessment or determination by the regulatory/official veterinarian that this horse is unfit to race. The Coalition has adopted more stringent requirements for removal from the Veterinarians’ List including minimum standards for time spent on the Veterinarians’ List and timed workout requirements to demonstrate soundness to the regulatory/official veterinarians, along with additional protocols for first-time starters after February 1 of their 4-year-old season. These measures are in place ensure that the underlying issues any horse that is cleared to train or race previously suffered have been firmly resolved. Additionally, regulatory/official veterinarians will be required to share their Veterinarians’ Lists with other jurisdictions.
- Adopt a waiver claiming option for horses coming off an extended layoff
Racing offices will allow an owner or trainer to declare a horse ineligible to be claimed if the horse hasn’t started in 180 days, its last start was for a claiming price, and the horse is entered for a claiming price equal or greater than the price it last started for. This is designed to encourage owners and trainers to give unsound horses a break from training and racing without the risk of losing the horse in a claiming race immediately thereafter.
- Create an electronic veterinary reporting system and centralized database
Enabling and mandating an efficient, reliable reporting system for vets, and collecting the reported information in a common database, will improve pre-race screening and integration with out-of-competition testing rules.
- Collect racing surface data and merge information with existing databases
Correlating a new racing-surfaces database with preexisting injury databases, such as the Equine Injury Database, veterinary and pre-race examination databases, and veterinary lists, will give the industry a vastly improved capability to diagnose and address injury patterns.
- Standardize protocols for ensuring jockey health and wellness
The Jockey Injury Database (JID), created in 2012 by the Jockey’s Guild, collects and tracks information on injuries at race tracks—including where, when, and how an injury occurs, what type of equipment the rider was wearing at the time, and the nature and severity of the injury. Every track will gather this data and work with its local jockey colony to provide this information. Race tracks will have paramedics on call during race days, as well as adopt a concussion protocol in the event a rider comes off a mount during training or while racing.
- Develop a proficiency system for exercise riders
Exercise riders play an important role in the health and wellbeing of every race horse. It will be standard for every exercise rider, across all race tracks, to have to undergo a training period with proficiency exams and periodic qualifications to continue working.
- Create a safety steward position in all jurisdictions
Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules when it comes to regulations at the race track. A universal safety steward position would help bring cohesiveness to the industry. The safety steward will essentially function as a bridge between horsemen at a track and track personnel. The Steward will be responsible for the enforcement of any kind of safety rule at the track and can work to implement new ones.
- Establish cross-functional safety committees at all participating race tracks
All track coalition members will not only work with individual safety stewards but maintain internal safety committees—composed of track management, horsemen, jockeys, veterinary representatives, and others—to ensure full scrutiny, and maximum effectiveness, for every single safety measure.
- Mandate increased licensing requirements for trainers
Thoroughbred trainers are primarily responsible for the care and performance of our equine athletes. For that reason, the Coalition is establishing, and advocating for the adoption of, a higher standard for licensing that includes requirements for continuing education.
- Require implementation of an emergency track warning system
All Coalition tracks will install an emergency track warning system consisting of lights and sirens inside the main track and, where applicable, on main horse paths and entrances/gaps used to enter the training or racing surfaces. The system will be used to warn riders and horsemen in the event of a loose or injured horse, in cases when there is a failure to remove the starting gate, to signal a lightning delay and in other emergency instances.
- Modify racetrack gaps to increase horse and rider safety
Ensure that all gaps are clearly marked, have protective padding covering sharp edges or angles and have proper mechanisms to allow for secure closure when needed. These measures increase the safety of both horse and rider in the event of a collision or a loose horse on the track. Additionally, for races breaking from a chute, there should be sufficient temporary rail extension to guide horses from ducking in or out.