As Saturday marks the running of the 154th Belmont Stakes in Queens, the oldest and longest of all three Triple Crown races in Thoroughbred horse racing, we continue to work to end doping in the sport and the use of the whip.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, for which Animal Wellness Action lobbied, addresses these issues, and that measure, signed into law in December 2020, takes effect in less than three weeks amidst a terribly controversial year in American horse racing.
The new law was supported by every major animal protection group in the United States and countless stakeholders in the industry, including The Jockey Club; The Breeders’ Cup; Water, Hay, Oats Alliance; New York Racing Association; Team Valor; and Keeneland, to name just a few.
While we had hoped for greater results with the implementation of the new law, nothing is perfect, and no legislation can completely solve the countless problems American horse racing has faced in recent years. There has to be a willingness from industry participants to stamp out abuse.
The centerpiece of the new law was the issue of doping and having the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) oversee drug testing and enforcement. And while implementation has gone awry in recent months, and USADA was set aside for a private entity known as Drug Free Sport International, there is still hope that enforcement will be robust and root out race-day doping in this industry.
In the latest episode of the Animal Wellness Podcast, host Joseph Grove and I are joined by my dear friend of nearly two decades, Monty Roberts, the “Man Who Listens to Horses.” He is perhaps the most well-known and well-respected horse trainer on the planet. He’s the best of the best, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II thinks so, too. She’s entrusted him with many of her horses and promoted his concepts and principles of natural horsemanship known as “Join-Up” in 41 countries around the globe.
We discuss doping, the use of the whip, and the violence in our society today that could be prevented through education and programs like the ones developed by Monty and his team.
Marty Irby is the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., and a former eight-time world champion equestrian who was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2020 for his work to protect horses.