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Racing Reform

AQHA statement on racing industry reform.

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The American Quarter Horse Association has a paramount concern for the welfare of the American Quarter Horse, as well as the integrity of the races in which they compete. 

Unfortunately, following the March 14 introduction of the proposed bill HR 1754 (commonly referred to as the “Horse Racing Integrity Act”), as well as sweeping actions taken after a series of fatalities at Santa Anita Race Track in California, the racing industry is in the animal welfare spotlight.

Additionally, The Jockey Club recently issued a 12-page white paper, entitled “Vision 2025,” identifying what it says are flaws in racing and saying that to prosper, horse racing needs comprehensive reform.

The flaws identified by The Jockey Club include that the current system does not work; rule making is slow; there is inadequate out-of-competition testing; a need for double-blind testing at all labs; insufficient research; a need for a national investigative arm; the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is in decline and lacking intended investigative impact; lack of uniformity; uniformity in international rules; and suggests that furosemide (commonly known as Lasix) is being used as a performance-enhancing drug.

Reform suggested by The Jockey Club includes independent central rule-making authority; transparency and drug testing; public equine information documents; injury reporting; use of track pharmacies; pre-race exams; all horses sick or injured go on vet’s list; microchip ID; sales companies have an anti-doping program; fitness and ready to train (permission); equipment practices reform; rider safety protocols; racing surface analysis; and aftercare. 

Essentially, The Jockey Club is asking for federal regulation of horse racing, a step that AQHA strongly believes would harm, not help, the sport.

AQHA agrees that implementation of appropriate regulatory measures over racing is a dynamic effort, and many of the suggestions The Jockey Club articulates in its paper have merit. However, AQHA believes that regulation needs to be implemented by industry stakeholders, who are familiar with the sport, as well as the care, training and performance of the equine athletes.

In fact, American Quarter Horse racing industry stakeholders have already deployed countless measures to protect the equine athletes and the integrity of the sport. That includes working closely with the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing and Medication Testing Consortium, which are both led by people with years of expertise in racing, who are already working tirelessly in these endeavors, all for the protection of the horse. 

Currently, racing in the United States that produces 94 percent of all pari-mutual handle is done under the ARCI’s Controlled Therapeutic Substance List. In 2017, more than 354,000 biological samples were submitted for testing, with a 99.5 percent pass rate. This vast majority, being governed by the ARCI Model Rules, indicates there is more consistency across state lines than The Jockey Club represents in its white paper. 

The RMTC also is currently conducting double-blind testing of the laboratories.

AQHA is opposed to any federal legislation that would ban therapeutic medications, as well as race-day use of furosemide, and therefore continues to work with international, national and state racing organizations and commissions that are well versed in specific racing issues to evaluate protocols to allow for uniform medication rules and deterrents of performance-enhancing drugs. 

AQHA, along with the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Agency, American Association of Equine Practitioners, North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians, and Jockey’s Guild, have all verified their position on the use of furosemide as a necessary medication for the welfare of the horse to mitigate the occurrence of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

AQHA has also worked closely with ARCI to strengthen medication violations for medications such as clenbuterol and albuterol, supported industry movements to increase out-of-competition and hair testing, and continues to work to educate legislators in Congress regarding medication regulation, including furosemide. 

Other areas that AQHA is working on with regard to racehorse welfare include a microchip program to correctly identify Quarter Horses for breed integrity purposes and track them for biosecurity measures; scrutinizing the tack and equipment used for racing; and on-track safety practices for jockeys and horses. Evidence that the industry is, indeed, moving forward with initiatives that protect both the horse and the rider.

AQHA believes that industry-based regulation – not federal legislation – is critical to protecting our equine athletes and the sport of horse racing. The Association has been a front runner in progressively adding to measures to protect the athletes and the sport, and firmly believes that turning the industry over to an underfunded, poorly informed bureaucratic body is likely to derail the momentum the industry has gathered at protecting the sport.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqha.com/racing.