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Veterinary students receive unique learning opportunity


More than 100 students at the AAEP Convention got an inside look at Del Mar Racetrack

Students who participated in the event at the  Del Mar Racetrack (Image courtesy of US Davis College of Veterinary Medicine)

Students who participated in the event at the Del Mar Racetrack (Image courtesy of US Davis College of Veterinary Medicine)

More than 110 veterinary students were granted access to a behind-the-scenes look at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club at the Del Mar Racetrack, during the 2023 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention in San Diego, California.1 Del Mar Thoroughbred Club first opened its doors in 1937—where first fans were greeted by founder Bing Crosby—and is home to multiple historic races and riders, including the famous Seabiscuit-Ligaroti match held in 1938.2

“Many veterinary students, including myself, did not grow up with exposure to the racetrack,” said Alina Vale, DVM, MS, official veterinarian for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), in an organizational release.1 “After I was introduced to the track, I knew I wanted to devote my career to these amazing athletes. Practicing veterinarians and regulatory veterinarians at the track can have a profound impact on racehorse welfare and safety.”

Twenty to 30 students were expected to attend but the program brought together over 100 students from veterinary schools across the world, according to the organizational release.1 The students were able to witness events such as afternoon races and morning workouts to get a better picture of what racetrack veterinarians do to ensure the health and safety of these patients. Thrilled with the overwhelming interest in attending the track, Josh Rubinstein, president and chief operating officer, and Tom Robbins, executive vice president of racing and industry relations told the AAEP Convention to “bring them all.”

Throughout their stay at the racetrack, the students were given a tour of the barn where they were able to witness veterinarians perform pre-race exams as well as learn more about the role veterinary teams play in safety programs. Multiple trainers brought horses in for a race day examination, giving students the chance to see what veterinarians taking care of these horses can identify as potential issues, such as stride length, hip symmetry, and head carriage.

“The thing that most stood out to me was the sheer volume of people tasked with safeguarding the health of the horse,” said Fred Holcomb, a third-year veterinary student at Texas A&M University, in the release.1 “From the head steward monitoring for crop violations during training to the veterinarians doing the pre-race evaluations, it was clear that the equine athletes’ safety was a priority.”

Students were also able to watch the racehorses work out, network with other students and veterinary professionals to learn about their career paths, and hear from riders about the role of outriders and their horses. At the end of the tour, students were given lunch and attended the races that afternoon.

Because of the success of the event, the racetrack hopes to continue giving students this opportunity to learn through the AAEP Convention or other regional opportunities for AAEP student chapters to travel to local tracks. “The opportunity to tour the Del Mar racetrack was the perfect occasion to learn about a portion of the equine industry that I was not familiar with,” said Kenzie Jones, a second-year veterinary student at Kansas State University, in the release.1

“They walked us through the rigorous protocols of how horses are evaluated before and after their races. I was very impressed when the veterinarians shared that all recorded evaluations of the horses are logged into a nationwide system so that the information will follow them when they travel to different locations,” she concluded.


  1. Veterinary Students Receive Warm Welcome at Del Mar Racetrack. News release. UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine. December 13, 2023. Accessed December 18, 2023. https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/veterinary-students-receive-warm-welcome-del-mar-racetrack
  2. Del Mar horse racing history. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Accessed December 18, 2023. https://www.dmtc.com/media/history
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