Change isn’t always easy, but it’s often for the better. With disconcerting headlines in horse racing news and unregulated practices tainting the sport, it’s clear that the industry is in need of change and perhaps even a revised, standardized rule book. In 2020, Congress signed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) into federal law. Since there’s now a regulatory authority managing the equestrian racing community, let’s look at the new horse racing rules and how they’re going to change both the game and the world of online sports betting.
What is the HISA?
To understand changes to legislation and practices, we need to understand the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) and its mission as approved by Congress in 2020. HISA is tasked with creating and enforcing standardized safety and integrity rules in thoroughbred racing in the US. Once HISA has drafted prospective guidelines, they are proposed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for approval and implementation.
HISA programs and dates
HISA currently has two programs. The first is the Racetrack Safety Program, in effect since July 1, 2022, which includes national racetrack standards and operational safety rules designed to reduce horse and jockey injuries.
The Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) Program, which will come into effect in July 2023, features a centralized drug testing and result process with set penalties for violations in the US.
Even though animal rights groups such as PETA and Animal Welfare Action have been putting pressure on the industry to improve its rules in order to protect horses and prevent injuries, the response has been underwhelming. But then, during the 2018/19 Winter Meet at Santa Anita Park, 49 horses died from breakdowns within a six-month period. In light of this catastrophic event, HISA and its safety and anti-doping measures became necessary.
Important upcoming law changes
Here are a few game-changing laws that are being introduced by HISA.
Whip or riding crop limits
According to updated HISA rules, riders are only permitted to strike a horse six times on the hindquarters, with no more than two strikes in succession. Jockeys may tap the horse’s shoulder with the crop or show it to them in order to spur them on or as a safety measure. Riders may not raise their wrists above their helmets before striking a horse. The penalty for breaking these rules is a $250 fine or 10% of their earnings, whichever is higher. Jockeys will also be suspended for a few days and receive three violation points.
This approved law will be good news for people who love to bet on horse racing but can’t stomach the excessive use of whips during races.
Medication reporting requirements
A major issue that plagues many sports, including equestrian racing, is doping. Even the Santa Anita Park tragedy can be partially attributed to doping. One significant HISA change is the introduction of extensive requirements for medical reporting.
Horse trainers are now required by law to maintain an updated record of all medication given to horses as well as all therapeutic procedures, treatments and surgical procedures. These records must be submitted regularly to regulatory veterinarians and made available to HISA officials on request.
Jockey medical cards and safety education
Deciding between horse racing picks is fun, but riding on a horse that’s speeding at 45 miles per hour is no joke. Because jockey safety is just as critical as horse safety, HISA has implemented a number of safety rules for jockeys. The two most noteworthy of these are the medical card requirements and compulsory safety education.
As of July 1, all jockeys and exercise riders must have a medical card attached to their safety vest. This card should contain their medical history, emergency care instructions, previous injuries, allergies and current medications. After a severe injury or accident, having this information immediately available to paramedics can save a jockey’s life.
To prioritize safety, HISA regulations also state that all riders have to undergo at least two hours of continuing education on safety and rider or racetrack protocols before the Race Meet.
Banned Lasix medication
Lasix, or furosemide, is a controversial and much-debated drug among trainers and other members of the horse racing betting community. This anti-bleeding drug can make it difficult to detect a horse with the genetic predisposition to be a bleeder. As long as this remains undetected, the flawed gene can be passed on to other racehorses and make them vulnerable.
Lasix is also used as a diuretic on horses before their races to make them run faster. This drug can cause horses to lose up to 30 pounds of fluid in urine, making their bodies lighter for the race. HISA legislation bans the use of all medications, including Lasix, in the 48-hour period before the start of a race.
What do law changes mean for racehorse bettors?
Nothing is appealing about a rigged game. The best horse racing betting sites can only be fair and legitimate if both races and trainers are transparent. Anti-doping rules assure bettors that horses and jockeys are competing on a level playing field. After going through all the trouble of researching and checking betting tips and live horse racing odds, you don’t want to lose a bet because a rival horse took a performance-enhancing drug.
Safety rules give bettors peace of mind. Knowing that horses and jockeys aren’t being exploited or harmed allows you to enjoy the game and your successes even more. A more regulated and safer sport means more riders and trainers will be drawn to the sport, cementing its place in the future.
Possible future HISA laws
The release of HISA’s anti-doping program will be a defining moment for the future of horse racing. With restrictions on controversial drugs such as Lasix already in place, the regulatory body is taking time to research the effects of such drugs on horses and their health.
Laws to be introduced in 2023 include prohibitions on pin firing, freeze firing and blistering, in addition to prohibitions on chemical and surgical neurectomy. Strict limits on shockwave treatments, magnetic wave therapy and laser therapy before races will be enforced. As more research is done on the true underlying causes of horse and jockey injuries and deaths, more rules will be proposed to aid and protect athletes, animals, trainers and bettors.
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