What types of vets are on the track and how do they work together (private, regulatory, track)? What happens if a horse is injured?

A team of veterinarians is constantly at work behind the scenes on the racetrack, in several different capacities.

Each horse’s owner and trainer employ veterinarians (referred to as “private practitioners”) to serve as the horse’s primary health care provider while stabled at the racetrack. Specialists may be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of specific areas of practice including dental care, nutrition, and orthopedics.

The racetrack employs a team of veterinarians (“track veterinarians”) who inspect all horses entered to race that day and who are in the paddock (saddling area) and on the racetrack during racing to observe the horses before, during, and after each race. They are empowered to recommend excusing any horse from competition if there is any question about the horse’s physical or mental ability to compete until further evaluation can be completed. Additionally, they are always on hand to respond to emergencies and immediately attend to any injured horse. These veterinarians will stabilize the injury and transport the injured horse (using a specially-designed equine ambulance) back to the barn area, where the horse’s regular veterinarian is already waiting. Once there, a thorough evaluation of the injury (including diagnostic imaging) is performed so appropriate treatment can begin.

The state employs veterinarians (“official veterinarians”) to enforce the rules the regulatory agency has in place to govern the use of medication and veterinary practices on the racetrack. These veterinarians are responsible for the collection of pre- and post-race blood, urine, and hair samples needed to test for prohibited substances, and also maintain a list of horses ineligible to compete because of confirmed or suspected medical or physical infirmity. Until the trainer can demonstrate to the regulatory veterinarian that the horse is fit to compete, the horse cannot race.