The issue of the health and safety of horses in the horseracing industry has always been sensitive. Trainers, many at times, have been known to employ underhanded tactics to get the best race performance out of their animal - often, to its detriment. Things like the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are, perhaps, the primary motivator behind the perceived need for change.
To that end, new laws have been brought to the United States Senate that would imply sweeping regulation changes across all stakeholders in horseracing. The new Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is currently making the rounds and undergoing thorough scrutiny. If passed, however, it would see enforcement in 2022.
As it Stands
Currently, independent tracks all over the United States are allowed to set and enforce their very own rules on medication and doping of horses. This lack of standardization has meant that there hasn't been uniformity of rules across the industry. As expected, owners and trainers frequently find and manipulate loopholes in the inconsistent guidelines to give their horses the best chance at victory.
The New Rules
USA Today has put out a concise report detailing the four new rules. They focus on the treatment and care of horses on and off the track and include:
- Placing limits on the use of a bronchodilator that enhances muscle development
- Restrictions on how frequently a jockey can whip a horse during a race
- Eliminating performance-enhancing drugs
- Restricting the use of an anti-bleeding medication
Many industry experts have praised the new move, decrying the long-time need for uniform industry regulation to even the playing field and ensure the horses are treated humanely.
Speaking to the Associated Press, USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart commented:
"It will be a game-changer, I think, for the industry when it comes time to protect the health and safety of the horses and the integrity and fairness of the competition. It is going to mean clearing out the bushel to get to cleaning this thing up and restoring this sport to what it once was."
Tygart's take resonates with what many across the industry feel -which is that the sport is dirty, and this lack of uniformity in the rules opens up avenues for unfair competition.
Still No National Governing Body
One peculiar thing about this new law is that, among the inherent rules it spells out, it doesn't codify, create or reference a National governing body that would be charged with its enforcement all over the US.
At different times in US history, states have created their gaming regulatory bodies. Often, the purview of these bodies has extended to horseracing. However, the lack of an overseeing national regulatory body might make enforcement across the board more difficult.
One Humane Step Forward
Many commentators have praised the new rule on the use of the whip by jockeys. The new bill regulates uniformly the number of whips that are allowed on racehorses at events in every state. They say that it will signal the beginning of a change in the perception of how horses, and animals in general, should be treated.