Cal Track Vet: “HISA’s windblown pronouncements of commitment to equine welfare are hypocritical in light of the facts.”

A recent “Letter to the Editor” at BloodHorse:

“I am in the twilight of a career spanning more than 40 years practicing veterinary medicine at racetracks. With great sadness I question whether any of today’s vet school graduates – if they even choose to be a ‘horse doc’ at the track – will have the option of working in the racing industry in another 40 years. Horse racing faces many problems, but the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and its resulting Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority is not the solution and, in fact, is exacerbating the complex problem of keeping horses sound.

“HISA’s oppressive reporting requirements, prohibition of clinically effective medications, and devastating punishments for clerical errors is discouraging veterinarians from committing to racetrack practice. This is in addition to the serious shortage of qualified regulatory veterinarians facing HISA. As the supply of veterinarians willing to comply with HISA standards dwindles, the availability of medical care for our horses will dwindle. HISA’s windblown pronouncements of commitment to equine welfare are hypocritical in light of the facts. HISA professes to be interested in the welfare of horses but is actually charting a path towards decreasing care of our horses.” – Donald Smith, California racetrack veterinarian

Subscribe and Get Notified of New Posts


  1. Necropsy being performed on Maple Leaf Mel and findings go to HISA for investigated findings from Cornell. Barf bag anyone.??

  2. He said he had been a racetrack veterinarian for 44 years. He practiced at Golden Gate Fields. So naturally he has something to be pessimistic about since his idea of care is injecting horses with Lasix and forcing horses to perform as though they were machines. Who cares if they bleed…? Just inject the bleeders with Lasix. But, of course, he loves the horses. I’m sure he made a lot of money over those forty-four years injecting horses with Lasix and other drugs.
    If HISA is keeping horses from being forced to run, that’s a good thing.

  3. I will continue to reiterate that it’s all about our flawed destructive breeding protocols that are driven by ignorance and greed. The industry must know this but they have no solutions to fix it without removing money from the equation. Strong sound horses aren’t always going to be fast horses. The end result is speed capable animals who are broken at birth. Throw in the other debilitating factors such as drugs and early training regimens and you have a species of animals who are time bombs for self destruction. These thoroughbreds are vulnerable to break down doing anything or nothing at all. Until people grasp that, they won’t see the whole picture.

    • Karen, when you say these THOROUGHBREDS “self-destruct” and are vulnerable to break down doing nothing at all, you destroy your own credibility. Please stick to the facts.

  4. These horses are at the mercy of people who have no mercy. These horses do not “self-destruct” but rather they are being mistreated and destroyed by the industry that breeds them. Tell the owners/managers of Spendthrift Farm, for example, and see how much they care about the fate of the horses. They’re in the breeding business to make millions of dollars off of the stud fees.
    Spendthrift Farm management protested the diversification of the “gene pool” of Thoroughbred horses when the Jockey Club wanted to limit the number of mares that one stallion could cover. Spendthrift Farm management couldn’t care less about diversification of the gene pool of Thoroughbred horses.

  5. “Practicing veterinary medicine at racetracks” is an oxymoron, since true veterinarians take an oath to save and preserve lives, and the vets on the track are complicit, if not downright involved, in the daily abuse, torture, and death of horses. With a career that long, it’s obvious this guy discarded his soul a long time ago.

    • I find it exceptionally sickening and stupid that he blames HISA that there won’t be young veterinarians wanting to enter into the field of race track vets because of HISA rules and requirements. Isn’t it terrible that the veterinarians have to answer to somebody besides the racing commissions, the racing Commissioners and Stewards being steeped in the corruption. I’m not saying that HISA is all honest and above board, because they are not. It seems that this old track vet is waxing pessimistically sad that the industry isn’t going to let it be quite as easy as it once was and his home track, Golden Gate Fields, will be closed for business soon.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: