AQHA on racehorse welfare: We’re working hard behind the scenes

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The American Quarter Horse Association has reiterated its commitment to horse welfare in racing, saying it was continuing to push for unified medication standards across jurisdictions as well as breed-specific policies.

Recent headlines have chronicled stories about areas of concern in racing that still need to be addressed, which ranged from medication use to track injuries and the need for greater consistency around how rule violators were handled.

The association said it was committed to protecting the welfare of the quarter horse on and off the racetrack.

“The association has not joined in the barrage of media focused on these topics; instead, AQHA has been focused on creating positive improvements by diligently working to encourage and implement positive reform,” it said in a statement.

It said it strongly supported uniformity in the horse racing industry and endorsed racing integrity, which it said not only secured the welfare of horses, but also secured confidence in the industry.

Much of the work it performed was behind the scenes, it said.

The president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Ed Martin, said his organization worked extensively with the AQHA in the development of its model rules.

“Both organizations work together as members of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and over the past year or so, we’ve had extensive discussions with representatives of AQHA about breed-specific policies, especially with regard to the regulation of clenbuterol.

“We have worked to encourage breed-specific policies with our members, which has been a joint effort, and encouraged all quarter horse regulators to get together in the same room and try to adopt common policies embodied in RCI model rules,” Martin said.

For the past year, the AQHA has been pushing hard for racing uniformity and reform by conducting joint meetings with key quarter horse jurisdictions, organizing a laboratory uniformity meeting in conjunction with Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

Current efforts focus on:

  • Lobbying regulatory bodies (racing commissions) to work with a coalition of laboratories to unify medication standards across jurisdictions
  • Lobbying regulatory bodies to be consistent in testing and detecting violations, and in enforcing the law and imposing deterrents both in an individual body and across jurisdictions;
  • Encouraging the closing of loopholes to keep horses trained by violators off the track until drug testing clears them to run;
  • Encouraging state attorneys general and state courts to support commission suspensions and not delay rulings through legal stays of appeal;
  • Teaming up with racetracks and racing commissions to deploy Racing Integrity Teams to racing events. These teams, made up of members of the Organization of Racing Investigators, ensure integrity at tracks and major events.

The AQHA said it was committed to racehorse welfare and would continue to work with international, national and state racing organizations to evaluate racing protocols.

Meanwhile, the AQHA executive committee recently approved recommendations from the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission that will affect tie-down roping classes, as well as the use of the diuretic furosemide, also known as Lasix, in show horses.

After an executive committee-requested review of Lasix, it approved a maximum permitted plasma concentration of furosemide of 100 nanograms per milliliter in show horses, effective from January 1, 2018.

Also effective from that date, any time furosemide is used a medication report must be filed with show management pursuant to VIO403.

The medication report must include:

  • Identification of the medication, as well as date and time of administration;
  • Identification of the horse;
  • Diagnosis of illness/injury, reason for administration and name of administering/prescribing American Association of Equine Practitioners veterinarian;
  • The signature of the veterinarian or person administering the medication.
  • For the rest of 2017, the only requirement related to furosemide is that it must be administered intravenously at least four hours prior to competition. Such a requirement will also appear in the 2018 rule.

Tie-down roping

Effective from the start of 2018, youth and amateur exhibitors will incur a three-point penalty if they bring a calf over backwards, with the calf landing on its back or head with all four feet in the air.

Open exhibitors will incur a disqualification (receiving no score) if the calf is brought over backwards with the calf landing on its back or head with all four feet in the air.


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