Reducing equine injuries should be primary focus of racing industry and regulators, AAEP says


Association and other groups respond to New York Times article investigating the dangers racing poses to horses, people.

NATIONAL REPORT — After an explosive New York Times report about horse racing injuries, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) issued a statement saying that reducing equine injuries should be the primary focus of the racing industry, regulators and veterinarians.

The AAEP's statement followed a cataclysm of opinions from other organizations, ranging from the Jockey Club proposing a ban on race day drugs to congressional leaders calling for new hearings to regulate horse racing.

The New York Times article, which ran on the front page of the March 25, 2012, issue, concluded that racetracks continue "to put horses and riders at risk." In the course of its investigation the news organization analyzed 150,000 races detailing injury reports, drug test results and interviews. Since 2009, 6,600 horses have broken down and trainers have illegally medicated horses 3,800 times.

"There should be no higher priority for the racing community than the health and safety of its equine and human athletes," says Dr. John Mitchell, president of the AAEP. "Reducing equine injuries must be the primary focus of all who care for the horse—from racetrack management and regulators to the veterinarians and horsemen who work daily in the barns.

"The racing community has a fundamental obligation to provide the best of care and oversight for our horses, and there are efforts to fulfill this mission. Examples of programs that have been recently developed for improved care of equine athletes include creation and refinement of the injury database, certification of tracks through the Safety and Integrity Alliance, the establishment of aftercare programs for retired racehorses, and the dedication of millions of research dollars to equine health and safety," Mitchell says.

"As the New York Times article points out, there is much work to be done," he continues. "Nationwide adoption of best practices for pre-race inspection and post-race observation along with uniform medication, testing, security and enforcement policies by all racing jurisdictions are essential safety and integrity elements for all to embrace. Commitment to these principles is critical to the very existence of the sport and most importantly, the safety of its horses and human athletes. What is good for the horse is good for racing."

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