The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) was recently asked by The Paulick Report to summarize, “what is NHBPA doing to protect the health and welfare of horses?” At the NHBPA, we are proud of our many initiatives on this front.
At the core of the National HBPA mission is encouraging the highest standards of horsemanship so as to continuously improve the care, health and safety of the horse. These are the guiding principles for all that we do; the better our equine athletes do, the better we do, the better horse racing does. National HBPA understands, intrinsically, that protecting the health and welfare of our horses is not only in the best interest of the horses, but also in horsemen’s interest, as well.
Some specific examples of National HBPA actions to protect the health and welfare of our horses include:
- NHBPA follows scientifically validated medical recommendations of the nation’s leading veterinary organizations. NHBPA is explicit in its belief that health care decisions on individual horses should always involve a veterinarian, with the best interests of the horse as the primary objective;
- NHBPA is advocating for the establishment of an office within the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Lab (NVSL) that will oversee and establish absolute uniform laboratory protocols;
- NHBPA is advocating for a mandatory national horse racing checkoff program. This new program would generate funds needed to support the many initiatives designed to improve welfare and safety of horses and riders, such as underwriting medical research, enhancements to equine safety and testing uniformity;
- NHBPA supports random Out Of Competition Testing for prohibited substances, with 100% of our samples tested in laboratories accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the single most important standard for calibration and testing laboratories around the world. This off-the-track testing helps ensure the integrity of our industry;
- NHBPA demands horses that become injured during racing and training are placed on a veterinarians’ list that is in place to prevent entry in any racing jurisdiction until properly cleared to race again by veterinarians in 100% of the jurisdictions;
- NHBPA also advocates that all horses entered to race should be subjected to pre-race veterinary examinations to ensure compliance with accepted flexion, palpation, and observation standards, and that veterinarians’ lists must be nationally published and mutually enforced among racing jurisdictions – no exceptions;
- NHBPA and affiliates advocate and fund research toward understanding and reducing equine injuries, illnesses, preventive medicine, responsible training and the humane treatment of our racehorses;
- NHBPA advocates for initiatives improving policies to inform and continue education for trainers while supporting owners and veterinarians.
- NHBPA seeks mandatory protocols for every track to undergo an independent surface materials analysis and assessment every year;
- NHBPA supports the continued development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of nationwide uniform rules that promote safety and integrity in racing; and
- NHBPA passionately supports the continued development and enhancement of off-the-track Thoroughbred retirement facilities and adoption groups along with programs at affiliated racetracks providing for the aftercare of our horses when their racing careers are over.
This is just the beginning; we at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association know we must – and we can – do even more to ensure that each horse everywhere in the United States is given the attention and protection it deserves. We will continue to look to national veterinary medical leadership for guidance in the process. National HBPA embraces this responsibility and remains open to serious, substantive and scientifically-backed reforms that protect the health and welfare of our equine athletes.
A personal note: One of my blessings during my career with horses was spending many years with a special horse named Remington. Remington was enjoying a second career as a polo pony when I met him, and he taught me more about the game than any human. He enjoyed a long, productive and happy life long after his racing days were behind him.
We owe it to the horses to reward them for all they give us as owners, breeders and racing fans – to provide them well-deserved rest and care once their racing saddles have been removed for the last time. The thoroughbred industry must embrace this responsibility of care through contributions to organizations such as the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Eric J. Hamelback
CEO, National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association