HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition continues to move forward with the development of recommendations and action items to improve the health and safety of horses, jockey and harness drivers in Pennsylvania. The coalition recently convened a meeting of key stakeholders that included representatives from the Pennsylvania horsemen and equine breeding associations, race track operators, the Pennsylvania State Horse and State Harness Racing Commissions, jockeys and harness drivers associations, as well as the working veterinary community.
The working group of more than 40 industry stakeholders discussed a wide range of topics, including medication rules, procedures, and practices; out of competition testing and pre-race inspections; and racetrack surface issues. Out of those discussions, participants identified four health and safety issues that the group will focus on in the near-term.
The various stakeholders agreed to form four separate committees to develop recommendations and proposed action items in the areas of:
- medication rules, procedures, and practices;
- claimed horse policies;
- out of competition testing and pre-race inspections; and
- Lasix administration oversight.
Over the next several weeks, the committees will collaborate on the topics, develop recommendations and report back to the full working group for additional input and to determine if a consensus has been reached. Some of these action items could take the form of proposed regulations that the working group may recommend for consideration by the Pennsylvania State Horse and State Harness Racing Commissions
“I was pleased with the overall support within the industry for working together toward the common goal of developing solutions that will improve the health and safety of horses, jockeys, and drivers in Pennsylvania,” said Salvatore M. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition. “The sharing of ideas and views from individuals representing all facets of the industry promoted a healthy discussion of the issues and helped drive us to focus on these key areas as a starting point.”
DeBunda noted that while no definitive timeline was laid out for the implementation of recommendations, the working group hoped to be able to share elements of the proposals over the next few months.
“This meeting was an important first step on the racing industry taking a leadership role on these issues,” said Todd Mostoller, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which co-hosted the meeting at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, along with Penn National Gaming. “The collaboration of the various stakeholders in developing solutions is an important step in making sure these proposals will be effective in addressing the health and safety issues.”
Participants in the meeting noted that Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of a number of health and safety reforms, including its status as the only state in the country to ban the intra-articular injections of corticosteroids within 7 days of a race. Stakeholders also discussed the support from horsemen’s groups to the New Bolton Center, which has worked to develop tests to identify the presence of certain performance enhancing substances. Horseman’s groups in Pennsylvania have contributed over $1 million to the New Bolton Center over the past five years for research and the development of testing for drugs.
Participants also discussed the close working relationship between the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and executives at Penn National Race Course in addressing track surface issues, which some speculate can play a major factor in horse injuries and breakdowns. The discussion also prompted a commitment by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association and Parx Racing officials to work proactively together on track surface issues. Track surface issues are not as large an issue in standardbred racing in Pennsylvania due to the different nature of the races.
About the Pennsylvania Equine Coalition
The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition is a statewide group representing more than 10,000 owners and trainers of the horseracing industry in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition include the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.