Revamped Counseling Program Helping Maryland Horsemen

The physical demands that horsemen face are well known to those familiar with the industry. Long hours, hard labor, and non-stop care for our equine athletes can not only affect a horsemen’s physical health and stability, but their mental well-being too. That is why MTHA in partnership with Maryland Jockey Club has placed a renewed interest in the counseling and mental health services offered to horsemen and backstretch workers, and the results have been remarkable.

Spearheading these efforts at Maryland tracks is Counseling Administrator Jessica Hammond. Jessica attended Towson University for her undergraduate studies and then the University of Baltimore for post grad work in clinical psychology. However, her lifelong work with horses and experience on the backside is what allows Jessica to excel at identifying the sometimes unique problems found only on a racetrack backstretch.

“When I saw the ad for this position, I knew [a career] in the psychology/racing intersection was a unique and amazing opportunity. It was a perfect fit for me,” said Jessica.

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MRMA Scholarships Applications Being Accepted

scholarship-booksApplications for the Maryland Racing Media Association’s 2016 scholarship program are being accepted through Sept. 30. Click here to download.

With the support of industry donors and organizations, MRMA has distributed approximately $25,000 annually to scholarship recipients over the past decade. Those interested in applying must either be backstretch employees, work on a Thoroughbred farm or with an equine vet clinic in Maryland.

Submissions need to include an employer’s letter of recommendation and a second reference from an individual who is a licensed or recognized member of the Maryland racing industry. 

The scholarships will be distributed at an event hosted by MRMA sometime in the fall.

For more infomration, contact Ted Black at (301) 459-4408.

Setting the Standard for Backstretch Health

In its first year of existence the new MTHA health program has provided a level of health care unprecedented on a race track backside. The program, at its inception, aimed to provide essential health services for horsemen and backstretch workers. Needless to say, it has hit its mark. Even more, new services have been implemented throughout the year resulting in a comprehensive health system that goes above and beyond simply caring for injuries and illness.

The new health system, a cooperative effort between the MTHA and the Maryland Jockey Club, employs a team of on-site doctors from the renowned Medstar Sports Medicine program, along with a group of MTHA administrators who, for years, have work tirelessly to provide health services for horsemen and backstretch workers.

Dr. Kelly Ryan is one of the physicians from the Medstar team and has nothing but praise for the program in its first year. “Other racetracks are looking at our system as a model for their own [new health initiatives].”

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Maryland State Fair Trainer Bonus Money Doubles

When horsemen arrive at the Timonium fairgrounds for the 10-day meet that begins Friday, Aug. 26, there should be smiles of anticipation on their faces.

Thanks to a $10,000 increase from the Maryland State Fair, the trainers’ bonus money payout for the 2016 meet is being raised to a total of $20,000.

“The Maryland State Fair was looking for a way to add some pizazz and encourage trainers to enter their horses during the State Fair meet,” says Ferris Allen, who serves on both the Maryland State Fair Board and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Board. 

“The State Fair Board asked me what they could do to entice more horses to make the racing go better. I suggested an increase to the trainers’ bonus, which had been $10,000 for a long time. 

They made the decision and left the particulars up to me. I sat down with Georganne [MJC racing secretary Georganne Hale] and we came up with the plan that would benefit as many trainers as we could.” 

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Compounded Medications – What Trainers Need to Know

Recently, there have been several headlines regarding compounded medications and the associated risks to horse health and welfare. In some cases, using an improperly compounded medication can lead to death. Any death of a horse is difficult. Those that are preventable – as in the case of an improperly prepared compounded medication – are unacceptable. Writing off the use of all compounded medications, however, would be a rash decision. Compounded medications, when used responsibly, may have a place in horse racing.

The question is how do we know when compounded medications should be used and what medications are appropriately compounded? As horsemen/women, we may lack a degree in chemistry or be unfamiliar with the nearly unpronounceable names of drugs prescribed veterinarians prescribe. But that should not relieve us of having a basic understanding of certain terms and practices, like compounding. A basic grasp of pharmaceutical processes, together with open communication with experts (e.g., veterinarians) regarding this issue helps facilitate a safe and responsible environment for acquiring and using compounded drugs.

What is a compounding? Compounding basically occurs when a pharmacist or a veterinarian combines one or more FDA approved medications, adds flavorings to medications, or creates an alternative formulation (e.g., paste form versus powdered form) from an existing FDA approved medication. Compounding, in the strictest sense, occurs when a veterinarian mixes hyaluronic acid and a corticosteroid prior to a joint injection. It can also include adding flavoring to powdered bute and combining it with inactive ingredients into paste form. The key words here are FDA approved medications which provide some reassurance that the drugs used in compounding are safe and meet strict guidelines for production and labelling.

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Backstretch Appreciation Day: All You Can Eat and a Wheelbarrow Full of Cash Prizes

The unsung heros of our industry are undoubtedly the men and women who work tirelessly to provide the hands-on care and attention our equine athletes demand. In our continuing efforts to recognize and reward these individuals, the MTHA will hold it’s annual Backstretch Appreciation Day on September 19th from 1 p.m. unitl 4 p.m. at Laurel Park. This year’s celebration will be one that you won’t want to miss because, for the first time ever, we will be giving away $5,000 in cash and other door prizes. There will be (8) $500 cash winners and (1) grand prize of $1,000.

This year’s festivities will be held place in a new location, as the Maryland Jockey Club has offered us the use of it’s newly erected tent on the apron of the grandstand. This should provide attendees with a cool, shady environment to enjoy the food, games, and other activities on tap for the celebration.

In addition to all that cash, our backstretch workers will be provided with All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Chicken, Pit Beef, Ham, a bountiful array of salads and sides, as well as non-alcoholic beverages to keep everyone cool and hydrated. The event will be catered by Russell Clark Catering and there will be a DJ provided by Carlyle Entertainment so attendees can dance off any desserts in which they decide to indulge.

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