ATTENTION: The AQHA office will be closed Thursday, November 27, and Friday, November 28, in observance of Thanksgiving. We look forward to serving you again Monday, December 1. 

Blog: What Do You Think?

Social media and vicious rumors.

By Trey Buck
July 4, 2013

Q Racing Blog

Have you seen the insurance commercial where the guy is mapping his car accident on a phone app? His neighbor, who is waiting for the arrival of her “French model” blind date that she met on the Internet, says that according to the Internet, the insurance company doesn’t have apps.

“And you believed it?” the guy asks.

“Yes, because they can’t put anything on the Internet that’s not true,” she adds.

That’s when her hairy Neanderthal-looking date shows up and says, “Bonjour!”…

…Chat rooms, blogs and social media sites are places where people can visit, network, voice their opinions and socialize. They are also places for rumors and speculation to get away from us.

Recently, I was forwarded a conversation from a popular social networking site that mentioned me, specifically, and my involvement with AQHA’s racing medications policies.

This specific comment came from someone who was upset that AQHA has not mentioned a trainer’s name in a stakes recap. The reason AQHA is not writing about or mentioning that specific trainer in articles is because that trainer has a ruling against him for a Class 1 drug violation. Even though he is appealing the ruling, AQHA has suspended that trainer until the appeals are resolved. AQHA policy is to not write about or mention racehorse trainers who have been suspended.

All of the racing trainer suspensions handed out by AQHA resulted from penalties issued by racing jurisdictions. Many of these cases involved positive tests for dermorphin (aka “frog venom”), a Class 1 medication. This highly potent opiate painkiller, believed to be 30-40 times stronger than morphine, has no generally accepted medical use in a horse. A list of the suspended trainers is available at the Racing Welfare and Medication page.

AQHA is not the only one enforcing the medication rules. AQHA is teaming with other industry organizations to develop uniform medication guidelines and stricter enforcement of drug and medication rules, as well as stronger penalties for the people who break the rules. This is all being done with the preference that the industry regulate itself, rather than have the federal government step in and regulate the industry. In other words, we need to clean up our own house. And we’ve got a good start:

•    Both AQHA and The Jockey Club are working jointly on the Reformed Racing Medication Proposal to address race-day medications, uniform rules, illicit and illegal drugs, and punish those who use them in swifter fashion and with harsher penalties.
•    Racing jurisdictions have tightened regulations and increased penalties for racing medication violations.
•    Several of our industry’s leading racetracks are also taking a stand by barring trainers with significant medication violations.

AQHA is resolute about taking a leadership role in getting the industry to act on race-day medications, performance-enhancing drugs, stricter enforcement and stiffer penalties. That said, AQHA is a breed registry, not a regulatory agency. Whatever our role in the industry is, we will continue to push for state- and industry-driven policies – not federal legislation – to protect the racing American Quarter Horse. In fact, the state racing jurisdictions and individual racetracks are the only groups with regulatory powers.

That’s why I’m calling racetracks and racing jurisdictions and alerting them about suspended trainers. These people have drugged our horses and fixed races using illegal substances, and testing has confirmed that. I feel it is my responsibility to make sure everyone is informed. I can tell you that the owners and trainers who are getting beat by the cheaters are fed up with it, and several have or are threatening to leave the business. Is that what you want? To run off owners and prospective buyers? If so, continue to make excuses for the people who have been suspended for cheating.

I have yet to have someone tell me that AQHA should not be involved in this or to not to worry about it. What I am hearing – from breeders, owners, trainers and fans – is that AQHA must do everything it can to clean up our industry. The only dog I have in this fight is to serve AQHA members and those who are playing the game fairly.

But this is my pledge: I will continue to work with racetracks and racing jurisdictions – including calling them about suspended trainers and regulatory issues – to keep illegal drugs and the people who abuse our horses out of our industry. If you don’t think this is right, I definitely would like to hear from you.

I attend races, sales and industry events regularly, and welcome discussion about any issue in our industry. If you don’t see me, call or email me with your concerns. I will respond.

Another thing I want to point out is that AQHA is its members – and those members make up the AQHA Board of Directors, AQHA Executive Committee and its standing committees that meet every year at the annual AQHA convention. The people on those lists are horsemen, owners, breeders, trainers and concerned members working to provide the governance of AQHA and ensure the safety and welfare of the horse we all love.

These people are respected horsemen who know how to handle a lead shank and they do so on a regular basis. The rules and penalties that AQHA uses to punish the violators are passed by those same people. Anyone can attend the AQHA convention and get involved. The AQHA racing industry even has a second meeting each year held in conjunction with the Bank of America Challenge Championships and Racing Conference.

It is easy to throw out anonymous opinions via the Internet, but if you really want to make change – get out, get involved and talk to the industry professionals who are already doing so.

Fight for what is right. Demand that your racing authority and racetracks adopt the RCI model rules for medication so that everyone plays on a level playing field, and quit defending the cheaters.

If we don’t, you can chat and socialize all you want about your next favorite way to make a living or hobby, because horse racing will not be around anymore.

Email me your thoughts at tbuck@aqha.org or call me at (806) 376-4811.

Trey Buck
AQHA Executive Director of Racing