HRU Feedback (2021-11-21)

In support of microchips

I read the comments by Trish Soulsby (2021-11-13 Feedback) and respect her opinion but respectfully disagree. I offer this feedback.

There is a false narrative that our evolution in identifying horses from markings and chestnuts to lip tattoos, to freeze branding to now microchips is somehow putting our standardbreds in jeopardy at the kill pens. Some say freeze branding is absolutely necessary to avoid this risk and therefore should be mandated in addition to the microchipping. That would add a cost of about $400,000 to all members who obviously would bear that extra cost if mandated.

If one wants to freeze brand a horse they have the option to do that on their own in addition to microchipping.

At kill pens those actively participating in saving our horses have been supplied with readers and for me the natural progression from chestnuts to microchipping is indeed progress.

The microchip is inserted into a ligament, is the size of a grain of rice, cannot be easily removed, and it does not migrate on its own. Again, there is, in my opinion, a group wishing for the USTA to mandate freeze branding, at an additional cost to all, rather than leave it optional.

Unless I am incorrect, I think New Vocations and others do not wish to see us go back to mandatory freeze branding. In addition, the New York State Legislature passed a Horse Slaughter Bill that mandates microchipping for thoroughbreds and standardbreds by Jan. 1, 2022, without which horses will not be eligible to race in NYS. The New York law further requires the USTA to maintain and make readily available to the NYS Gaming Commission such microchip data in order to penalize anyone found in violation of this law which is meant to protect our horses and hold violators accountable.

In 2010, the microchipping rule was passed after each District considered it. The rule’s implementation had been held up until some uniformity with other breeds and livestock could be achieved. The date for implementation has now come for this far superior way to identify all horses. The debate about the failure of USTA to put this rule to the membership violating their rights is a false narrative.

Your vote to move horse ID into the 21st century is a step forward, far superior to markings, lip tattoos and freeze branding, which individuals can still elect to use on their own and at their own cost.

If you agree that microchipping is the right path, bringing the USTA into a global identification system long utilized worldwide, then vote to reject rule change proposals #4, 18, 20, 21and 24.

Joe Faraldo / USTA chairman

Dr. John Hayes on accidents

RE: Are there more accidents and, if so, what is causing them?

I have a few thoughts on this subject, from the perspective of a person who was once quite invested to now an arms-length observer.

  1. I agree that with faster horses, race incidents occur quicker with an attendant quicker reaction time required, so that anything that diminishes reaction time potential is a major risk factor;
  2. Complimenting the increased speed of the 2021 standardbred, is the natural and clean gaits that most possess. Fewer horses wear boots today, especially pacers. And most pacers wear loose hopples. Interference and tight hopples had safety implications. That being said, if accidents are the same numbers today with a safer horse between the shafts, then maybe the risk has increased from other areas.
  3. Keith Waples could “scoot a sulky” sideways a foot, as could many others. Think of how many wheels he/they avoided hooking with this skill. As sulkies and driver posture have evolved, it appears that this skill is much less in play.
  4. Regarding the suggestion of making racetrack surfaces deeper to diminish speed, I would suggest that that would impact soundness negatively, leading to unintended consequences. Horses are meant to bear primary impact weight on the walls of their hoof, with some upward track-surface pressure on the frog to keep the foot pump functioning optimally. The sole is the most pressure-sensitive area of the external hoof. If racetracks were deeper in cushion, more surface material would “ball up” in the sole area, resulting in more weight bearing by the sole, on impact The hoof sole has somewhat thin protection from much vascularity above it. Excess sole trauma has pathology implications that are to be avoided, in my view.
  5. Regarding driver posture, hand hold position and their ability to react, I would suggest that some can do it very safely, and maybe some are an accident waiting to happen. It appears most drivers are adopting the current style, but optimal adaptation requires certain physical capabilities that aren’t equally available to all. Watching Connor McDavid… I’m Canadian so my analogy is hockey… and being able to duplicate his moves are worlds apart. Maybe the divergence of the gifted, the capable and the wanna-be are exposed too often when incidents develop. Unfortunately resultant bad outcomes affect everyone.

Thanks for “listening.”

Dr. John Hayes / Grimsby, ON

Attracting fans, increasing integrity

I would like to address my thoughts on the two main issues facing the future of the sport. Attracting new fans and integrity. I would like to see Saturday morning events at all tracks and training centers that included food trucks, pony rides and the ability for all adults to sit in a double seated jog cart for a short trip. They sign a waiver and wear a helmet. The horse bug bites many. As there is already an integrity hotline, let’s make it work. All parts of the industry should fund $300,000 of which $50,000 would be paid to anyone furnishing information leading to the arrest only of an individual, bypassing the delaying tactics of the legal system. After the third payout maybe some will take notice. After the sixth payout maybe the ship will start turning in the right direction.

David Bernstein

Faraldo on medication thresholds

I almost think the Commissions should suffer penalties for what they are accepting as validly-supported proper threshold levels of permissible therapeutic meds.

What’s wrong with these taken together RMTC (Racing Medication Testing Consortium), ARCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International) and HISA (Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act)? In a word, EVERYTHING.

Well let’s start out with what the USTA has been preaching for years, the illogical and therefore improper setting of threshold levels of permissible therapeutic medications way too low. For all those years the USTA has tried to convince the RMTC that what it was doing by setting thresholds at such low levels on permissible therapeutic medications was contradictory to the science and therefore, in plain English, simply wrongheaded. This is till today for not only thoroughbred, but also harness racing.

The ARCI created a scientific Advisory Committee to satiate the USTA’s concerns but comprised it of members of the same RMTC, who created these wrongheaded rules. Then ARCI continued to champion the appointment of those RMTC members to HISA’s Scientific Committee.

Examining the work of RMTC provides a long trail of damage done to many individuals in both industries. The most recent and devastating of which occurred in the thoroughbred’s most prestigious event the Kentucky Derby, where a threshold improperly set on Betamethasone at 10 pg/ml tarnished the entire racing industry with a massive blow. The USTA’s Harness Racing Medication Collaborative (HRMC) had verified that the science showed that the more appropriate threshold level for that permissive medication was 100pg/ml, a place it had been set at before RMTC intervened. The Kentucky Derby level detected was a mere 21pg/ml of Betamethasone. That was in excess of the RMTC level nut far lower than what HRMC determined scientifically to be the proper threshold level, ie 100pg/ml.

Now let’s go to the most recent debacles that occurred on 9/23/2021at the Delaware County Fair. In the Old Oaken Bucket a report has surfaced that 67 pg/ml of Dexamethasone was found exceeding the Ohio adopted RMTC threshold levels of 5 pg/ml. The HRMC set a threshold for this therapeutic medication at >100pg/ml. Let’s not stop there, in the standardbred on the same day some 68pg/ml of Dextamethasone was detected triggering another unnecessary positive that should never have been called but for the improper setting of threshold way too low by RMTC. Now the first-place money in the Old Oaken Bucket, $40,000 +and Standardbred, $20,000+ will need to be returned and redistributed. The question becomes, Why?

For that question there is no logical or practical reason except that many in this entire game still don’t get what the USTA has learned the hard way. That our game’s medication guidelines must come from the science that dictates at what levels therapeutic medications can have little to no effect at such minuscule levels. In setting these low levels out of thin air, optics, RMTC is hurting the game and forcing trainers to look elsewhere for treatment options once medicines are effectively removed from a veterinarian’s practice. Trainers may look to compounders for solutions and we all know where that can lead.

Our game can no longer tolerate having any entity dictate threshold levels that an entity like ARCI can take and blindly submit to a regulatory body unless the science verifies such levels. If the levels are challenged then a resolution of the same must be independently made, not by the entity that made the determination which is what happens now that RMTC controls all the dialogue and ARCI is tethered to them. What does that have to do with HISA? Well the current head of RMTC, Dr. Mary Scollay and another closely aligned with RMTC have been nominated to the HISA Scientific Advisory Committee. If the thoroughbreds don’t mind the treatment they get like they did this year in the Ky Derby fine but those of us in harness racing who have endured the back of RMTC’s arbitrariness for years think that this cannot be accepted or glossed over with statements that there is concern for the problems being created when that is not accompanied by legislative reforms that gives our harness industry real input and not subject to the back of RMTC’s hand or that of any one else for that matter. The science must prevail. The Commissions that accepted these levels in blind reliance should reconsider every regulation RMTC puts before them before adoption.

For now those in the Old Oaken Bucket and the Standardbred who will be harmed, they should think about their support for HISA in view of its RMTC connections to it. The Authority now proposes meting out penalties to not only trainers but veterinarians and owners based upon these ridiculously low thresholds . The RMTC’s ascension into HISA is reason enough to ask a million questions about what the heck we as an industry allow to get by us in the regulatory scheme and who should have real and meaningful involvement in that process.

The participants in Kentucky Derby, The Old Oaken Bucket ,The Standardbred and our industries all deserve better treatment than what we are getting from those who profess to know what is better for us. Science and education of the public transcend the optics which so far has ignored both science and common sense. The connections of both Sunny Crockett and Captain Cowboy have my sympathies. It is a bad deal that the industry still doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate, the degree of the harm being done. There will be more coming just like this, it has to be stopped.

Joe Faraldo / USTA chairman