Protecting Horses & Jockeys

California has been a leader in protecting the health and welfare of horses and their riders as evidenced by this short list of policies and practices currently in place: 

Horse and jockey safety is a primary focus of the CHRB.

Safety stewards are assigned to each racetrack to focus rules and procedures designed to insure the health and safety of racehorses. This responsibility requires safety stewards to spend considerable time in the stable areas and race track monitoring environmental safety and proper treatment of horses. Dangerous working conditions and mistreatment of horses is not tolerated.

Any situation deemed to be placing horses or individuals working with them at risk is corrected. Any rule violations are investigated and enforcement action taken when indicated.

The CHRB has a specific animal welfare provision in its regulations to prosecute cruelty, mistreatment, neglect or abuse. When appropriate, cases can be and are referred to local law enforcement for criminal prosecution.

CHRB investigators are sworn police officers, whose duties include patrolling the stable areas at all California racetracks and authorized training facilities.

Since 1992 the CHRB has contracted with the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine at Davis (UC Davis) to provide a veterinarian to serve as Equine Medical Director (EMD).  The EMD is the Board’s primary advisor on all issues related to medication and drug testing, the practice of veterinary medicine, and the health and safety of horses.

The Kenneth L Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at UC Davis is widely recognized as one of the premier testing facilities in the world provides the CHRB with an effective drug testing program.  Routine testing at Maddy exceeds “Super Test” criteria on each and every sample and tests for more than 1500 substances. The laboratory routinely adds new drugs and analytical tests as new information becomes available and has a world renowned equine pharmacology research program.

Since 2008 CHRB has allowed for the automatic deduction from the owners’ shares of net purses for the express purpose of helping support California thoroughbred retirement/rehabilitation facilities that provide care and services to retired thoroughbreds. More than 80 percent of thoroughbred owners voluntarily participate in this program.

The Board closely monitors the use of the riding crop (whip). Construction requirements for riding crops restricting length and weight and adding padding requirements were added in 2010. Rule prohibiting overuse of the crop was stringently enforced, and then in 2015 the Board imposed additional restrictions on the use of the riding crop.

California has been on the forefront of medication reform. California was among the first racing jurisdictions in the United States to prohibit anabolic steroids in racing in 2008 and has adopted the national uniform medication program that restricts the use of a number of drugs and imposes limitations on the use of corticosteroids. California was the first state to adopt a rule giving the Board authority to greatly restrict the overuse of clenbuterol at racetracks.

California voids claims (in-race sales) of any horse placed on the Veterinarian’s list for unsoundness or for visibly bleeding following a race.

A CHRB rule prohibits the running of pregnant mares racing after 120 days of gestation.

Since 1990 the CHRB has contracted with the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) CAHFS laboratory to conduct necropsies (autopsy) on all horses dying within CHRB enclosures. Postmortem examinations have provided valuable information on how injuries occur, which has allowed the CHRB and racing industry to use the information to prevent them.

All tracks in California participate in the national Equine Injury Database program, another source of information to monitor safety and prevent serious injuries.

The CHRB has an ongoing Racing Safety Program. Specifically assigned safety stewards monitor track surfaces independently and work with all racing associations to maintain safe and consistent racing surfaces. They consult with Dr. Mick Peterson from the University of Maine and Dr. Susan Stover from the Veterinary Orthopedics Research Laboratory at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

All horse entered to race undergo a pre-race examination the day of the race by the track (association) and/or CHRB official veterinarians. From the time the horses arrive at the receiving barn, through the saddling paddock, post-parade, starting gate, running of the race, and until they leave the track, the horses are under the observation of either the association or official veterinarian.

All tracks have emergency procedures in place under the supervision of the association veterinarian, who is situated near the horses on the track. If necessary, or out of a preponderance of caution, horses can be transported back to their barns in specially designed equine ambulances.

The CHRB, in collaboration with The Jockey Club and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has initiated a microchip pilot project to verify procedures for micro-chipping all race horses in California.  The microchip system will greatly enhance disease control management, allow location tracking, and provide a central database for all records associated with each individual horse.


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Racing Safety