Maryland approves multiple rules, proposed regulations for equine health and safety

Posted: Oct. 25, 2019

The Maryland Racing Commission Oct. 24 approved a number of “house rules” geared toward racehorse health and safety as well as accountability of participants, and also signed off on multiple proposed regulations related to the same issues.

The rule changes and regulation proposals stemmed from an Oct. 10 meeting of the MRC Safety Committee and an Oct. 2 meeting of more than 60 racing stakeholders on the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said the rules were discussed at both meetings without dissent, and he called the broader Mid-Atlantic meeting “incredibly productive.”

The following are the house rules or proposed regulations approved by the MRC.


If a horse has not run in 30 days, it must have one half-mile work.

First-time starters will need three works to start in a race—one from the gate, one published, and one work of at least a half-mile within 30 days of entry. First-time starters must have a gate card on file prior to entry time.

If a horse has not started in 90 days, the horse needs two works: one of at last a half-mile and another within 30 days of running.

Horses that have been off for 180 days or longer will be required to work three times: one work in front of a state veterinarian, and a blood sample will be taken; one work within 30 days of entry; and another of at least a half-mile. The horse will not be allowed to enter until a practicing veterinarian signs off and approval is obtained from the state veterinarian.

A 2-year-old must have three works to start, and one must be from the gate with gate approval.

Trainers are required to inform the clocker of the name of a horse that is going to work. Failure to report to the clocker shall result in a fine and/or suspension.

The rule is effectively immediately.

A horse shall not work within 48 hours of being scratched for medical reasons.

The rule is effective immediately.


For any horse vanned off during training or racing, the practicing veterinarian shall consult with the state veterinarian to discuss the diagnosis on why the horse is unsound and sign off that the horse is sound enough to return to racing. The horse must also work for the state vet and have a blood sample tested.

The rule is effective immediately.

A horse observed to be lame by the state veterinarian shall be placed on the vet’s list for an amount of time determined by the state veterinarian. A horse observed to be lame a second time with 365 days of the first time shall be ineligible to race for 90 days, and in the case of a third instance within 365 days, the horse shall no longer be eligible to run. The MRC Equine Welfare and Medical Director will have discretion.

The rule is effective Dec. 1, 2019.

A horse shall be flagged for additional scrutiny if it is scheduled to run within seven days of its last start.

The rule is effective immediately.

A horse entered on a “list” shall not be permitted to run until it is cleared by the state veterinarian. A daily list of horses that required an “override” will be compiled.

The rule is effective immediately.

The MRC signed off on a proposed definition on transfer of veterinary records: “The required health and medical records of a horse shall include the name of the horse and all medications, drugs, substances, or procedures administered by an individual or prescribed or administered by a veterinarian for up to the previous three years.”

A proposed owner rule would state than an owner shall order production and transfer of all health and medical records held by the individual or veterinarian providing serves to the horse owned by them within seven days if the horse is sold, claimed or transferred to a new owner, or if the MRC Equine Welfare and Medical Director makes such a request.

Implementation of the proposed regulation is estimated for February 2020.


Administration of intra-articular injections would be restricted to 14 days before a horse is anticipated to run. A form would be created for practicing veterinarians to complete on each joint injection and submit to the state veterinarian, who will place a horse on the vet’s list for 14 days.

A veterinarian found to violate this restriction shall be subject to disciplinary action. For the purpose of counting days, the day on which the horse is treated shall be the first day.

The rule is effective Dec. 1, 2019.

Any horse found to have been treated with bisphosphonates shall be declared ineligible to run. A veterinarian found to have administered bisphosphonates to a horse shall be suspended for one year.

The rule is effective immediately.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication will be restricted from 24 hours to 48 hours before a race. It is anticipated that a new threshold for phenylbutazone, or “Bute,” will be forthcoming from the Association of Racing Commissioners International in December.

As a result of the change, secondary thresholds for “stacking” will be eliminated and be subject to limit of detection. Penalties for violations will be re-examined and recommended to be increased.

The rule is pending receipt of threshold recommendations.

Administration of furosemide (Lasix) shall be restricted to four hours before a horse’s scheduled post time. A horse that doesn’t meet the four-hour limit shall be scratched.

The rule is effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Any horse entered in a race is not permitted to leave the grounds.

The rule is effective immediately.

Identification of horses:

A horse may not be allowed to race unless it has been lip-tattooed or digitally tattooed by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. For good cause, the stewards may waive this requirement if the horse is otherwise properly identified. However, the horse shall be tattooed within a time set by the stewards.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International passed a model rule regarding digital tattoos. The model rule states that, effective Jan. 1, 2020, a racing secretary shall ensure that the registration certificates for all Thoroughbred horses that were foaled in 2017 or thereafter have a digital tattoo prior to entry in a race.

The regulation is making its way through the approval process.

Other matters discussed by the MRC Safety Committee and subject to further discussion are use of shock wave therapy and reporting; not allowing a maiden 6 years old or older to compete; how to deal with veterinarians who do not normally treat horses at a Maryland track but do enter the stable area on occasion; and whether training centers or facilities where horses are trained should be under MRC jurisdiction as are racetracks.

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“We’ll probably have a monthly update (on new rules and proposed rules),” MJC President Sal Sinatra said at the MRC meeting. “We want to get in front of these things, and there are many more things we are working on. There is going to be more tightening of the belt. Racing has to change.”