By Boyd Browning
I imagine if you are reading this, we share something in common–the love of horses and horse racing. Like me, you may even make your living and provide for family by working in this industry. When I get the TDN Alerts at night that another important governing body is calling for an end to racing or to shut down the track, I feel sick to my stomach and can’t sleep. And then I get up in the morning and read/listen to the finger pointing and infighting within the industry. The “blame game” must stop immediately and we can either work together to make smart decisions that reflect the world we live in and survive, or we can continue to fight with one another about who’s right and who’s wrong.
We must recognize and embrace meaningful change to protect and care for the horse. I believe it is crucial we address these three issues immediately:
1. The “Riding Crop”
Within the industry, we can continue to refer to this item as a “riding crop.” The reality is 99% of the general public believes it is a whip.
Within the industry, we can continue to say it is cushioned, is used to make noise and does not hurt or injure the horse. The reality is 99% of the general public asks, “Why do you allow the jockeys to beat the horse coming down the stretch?”
In those infrequent instances when a jockey’s safety is in question, its use is certainly legitimate and justified. The usage in those instances can be evaluated by a panel of knowledgeable and experienced horseman such as Alex Solis, Ramon Dominguez, Pat Day and certainly many others. Otherwise, its usage must stop.
Our industry has made progress in recent years to address this issue, primarily through the formation of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) and the efforts of countless, dedicated adoption and rescue organizations. However, the current funding mechanisms are not adequate to address the issue. All constituents and participants throughout the industry must provide mandatory funding to solve this issue–racetracks, owners, breeders, sales companies, trainers, jockeys, and other organizations. We must be able to clearly demonstrate that our industry cares about Thoroughbreds after their time at the racetrack is completed.
3. Medication and The Horse Racing Integrity Act
Lasix is unquestionably been the biggest dividing force within our industry in recent years. I personally have two strong beliefs:
(1) The use of Lasix has NOT caused the current crisis associated with the recent breakdowns;
(2) Our current medication system and policy is NOT working.
Accordingly, I encourage and implore the horsemen (HBPA), the major racetracks (TSG, CDI, NYRA, Del Mar, Keeneland and Oaklawn) and RCI to provide leadership to make substantial and meaningful changes to the existing rules and regulations to improve equine safety and health by the end of 2019. The status quo is not acceptable, nor sustainable. If such change does not occur by December 31, 2019, each and every participant within our industry should support federal legislation.
Accordingly, to the current supporters of The Horse Racing Integrity Act, the issues facing our industry are larger and more significant than the Lasix issue. I implore you to work with all facets of the industry to address these other meaningful and more threatening issues facing our industry.
All of us should be able to support and endorse increased transparency with regard to the administration of medication throughout the life of the Thoroughbred horse.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It provides an opportunity to do things you may not have been able to accomplish before. We should embrace this moment to implement positive change as an industry and each of us has a personal responsibility to do so beginning today.