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USDA visit highlights Trainers’ meeting




Deputy Administrator Bernadette Juarez and Assistant Director of Animal Welfare Operations Dr. Aaron Rhyner were in attendance at the annual Walking Horse Trainers’ Association meeting in Shelbyville. Ms. Juarez opened the meeting by addressing the goals she laid out for the trainers at the beginning of the year which were a more consistent inspection process and a better relationship between the Veterinary Medical Officers and Designated Qualified Persons.

“I think we made significant progress around these two goals. From the shows I attended it seemed to be less stress and anxiety in inspections and fewer disagreements,” said Juarez. With regards to building the relationships between VMOs and DQPs, Juarez highlighted the joint training at the first of the year as a step in the right direction.

“We were incredibly pleased with the progress of the SHOW HIO and their performance. Their progress allows us to focus on the other HIOs that are not performing at the level we need them to,” continued Juarez.

The USDA conducted 72% fewer inspections at SHOW horse shows in 2017 versus 2016. “The reason we were able to conduct fewer inspections was because of the good job the SHOW DQPs were doing,” said Juarez. Juarez also stressed the importance of the industry supporting the DQPs both when the USDA is present and when they are not present.

A focus of the USDA discussion centered around the foreign substance findings during the show season. The USDA took 316 swabs during the year. Juarez was particularly concerned that 46 of those swabs tested positive for benzocaine and of those 46, 40 of them tested at a detection level above 5 parts per million. “When the trainers did their program you established the 5 parts per million as a threshold in your own program,” said Juarez. Of the samples testing positive for benzocaine the lower finding was 2.7 parts per million and the highest was 256 parts per million.

Juarez was also concerned that for the first time in a couple of years that three swabs tested positive for DMSO. “I can’t fix this alone. It is going to take a collective effort with the trainers to handle this, which I communicated to your board earlier,” said Juarez.

In addition to the foreign substance issues, Juarez highlighted the problems with shoeing violations in 2017. “In order to bring more consistency and understanding to the measurements, we will host a shoeing clinic on February 3rd (2018) which will be open to you and your owners,” said Juarez. The USDA will meet and train with the DQPs prior to the shoeing clinic.

Juarez concluded her comments saying, “We have made a lot of progress but there is still a lot to do.” Russ Thompson asked Juarez what gaps she saw in enforcement to which she answered, “People putting benzocaine on their horses is one.” In addition, Juarez mentioned the gap in training methods that still require use of substances such as benzocaine and the need for an inspection process that can accurately detect its use during inspection which does not currently exist. Juarez also commented that since official warnings issued for foreign substances in the past don’t seem to have deterred use of those substances, she would be calling the owners and trainers of horses that test positive in 2018.

Dr. Rhyner addressed a question regarding the measurements and informed the trainers that moving forward when measuring for high bands they will start at the bottom of the coronet band, which is consistent with how all HIOs were already measuring. In regard to heel/toe, the USDA has agreed to take it under advisement to measure from the hair line.

Each year at the annual meeting the trainers elect their officers. Serving as president will be Bill Cantrell, Mickey McCormick will be 1st Vice President and Ross Campbell will fill the 2nd Vice President position. Winning election to serve on the board were Laurie Toone, Philip Trimble and Chad Williams. In the fourth spot there was a tie between Tyler Baucom and Brad Beard with Beard winning in the runoff.

Wayne Dean gave the treasurer’s report highlighting the bank balances of $111,000 in the horse show account, approximately $6,500 in the operating account and roughly $74,000 in the Riders’ Cup account. In addition, the Yearling Sale the trainers put on at the Celebration netted the association approximately $12,000 in its first year. The board announced this sale will continue moving forward.

Dean Byard gave the horse show report. Byard informed the membership that the horse show was already paid for and that they were looking to have a great show on the 50th anniversary of the National Trainers’ Show. There will be an exhibitors’ party on Saturday night before the show and ballots have been sent to the trainers to vote for the judging panel. Those ballots will be due by the first of the year.

The show will also add back the three-year-old classic class and it and the stake class will both pay $1,500 to the winner with any entry not placing not having to pay its entry fee. The trainers are also considering picking up the date of the Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show since it will no longer be held in Florida. A decision will be made soon on this by the trainers.

The meeting adjourned with Bill Young, outgoing president, thanking the members for their support over his three years as president and he vowed to continue to help the association moving forward.

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