10/15/2014 2:04PM

Horse care, younger generations focus of Thoroughbred Ownership conference

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The second and final day of the industry-sponsored Thoroughbred Ownership Conference wrapped on Wednesday with discussions focused on the care of horses during and after their racing careers, and the younger generation of racing professionals.

The event was held at the Keeneland sales pavilion in Lexington, Ky., and was organized and hosted by OwnerView, an information resource developed jointly by The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Opening the session was a panel centered on veterinary topics, equine research, and aftercare. The panelists were Drs. Jeff Blea and Larry Bramlage, Ed Bowen of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Erin Crady of the Thoroughbred Charities of America, Nancy Kelly of The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, and Stacie Clark of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Blea and Bramlage ran through the typical procedures and surgeries seen with Thoroughbreds, with high-profile examples of success stories from early surgeries, and explained how training is essential to a horse’s bone growth but can be detrimental if not approached properly.

Bramlage singled out unbeaten champion Personal Ensign’s surgery and recovery from a broken right-hind ankle, which required five screws in her right long pastern bone, as a particular breakthrough for horses returning from major injury to race at a high level.

“It showed the coming of age of repair where the surgery not just saved the horse's life, but we could get her back in training,” Bramlage said.

The topic of equine health research was also discussed at length, noting that it is a particularly diligent field when compared to other areas of research.

“The equine research community is remarkable in its ability to keep pace with the human research community, with far less money,” Bowen said.

Resources and issues pertaining to Thorughbred aftercare were also covered, going over the reasons horses are retired, the benefits of sending a horse to an aftercare program, and what is being done to bolster aftercare efforts.

“Thoroughbreds are some of the most versatile animals out there,” Crady said. “Equine assisted therapy has been helpful for people with a wide variety of problems, and a lot of them are Thoroughbreds.”

A discussion on young people in racing followed, featuring panelists Anna Seitz, Brad Weisbord, Daisy Phipps Pulito, Price Bell, and Walker Hancock.

The group, largely consisting of multi-generational members of the racing industry, talked about their upbringings in the sport, and their decisions to remain in racing instead of branching into other avenues. They also evaluated the industry’s efforts to attract new fans, particularly young ones, and its ability to adapt to the times.

“The racetrack experience most important thing,” Weisbord said. “If tracks continue to put money into upgrading their facilities, the industry will go in the right direction”

Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, chairman of The Jockey Club, delivered the closing address, discussing the advances of his organization from simply a breed registry into one of the industry’s pillars, and the importance of The Jockey Club in today’s racing business.

To new owners, Phipps drove home the points made by many speakers over the two-day conference, that communication is key with those they will work for and with in the future.

“As an owner, you are paying the bills,” he said. “You have rights. Use them. Communicate clearly and often with your trainer. Make decisions together. Ask questions. Use modern tools to stay informed. There are all sorts of online resources available to follow and manage your equine interests.”