By Rory Carroll
LOSANGELES (Reuters) – California horse racing authorities on Thursday took steps to limit the use of medications and whips in competitions, moves that come following the death of 22 horses at the famous Santa Anita track this year.
One rule approved by the California Horse Racing Board would curtail the use of Lasix, a race-day drug used to treat bleeding in the lungs of horses, which can occur during extreme exercise.
The board also voted to limit the use of whips, known in horse racing circles as “riding crops”, despite objections from jockeys.
Jockeys would still carry whips during races but would only use them for safety purposes, not to make the horses run faster.
The Stronach Group, which owns Southern California’s Santa Anita as well as Golden Gate Fields in the San Francisco Bay Area, said this month it would back reforms following the spate of deaths, calling the current system “broken”.
The proposed changes, which still have to clear procedural hurdles and will not take immediate effect, were welcomed by activists.
“The measures approved today are the first significant steps in decades toward ending the worst of horse racing abuses,” said Kathy Guillermo, a spokesperson for animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“The Stronach Group and the California Horse Racing Board get it: Drugging and whipping horses will not be tolerated in today’s world.”
Santa Anita is set to resume racing on Friday. Activists have said they are planning to protest.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Ed Osmond)