Hit the Books!

Continuing education for trainers and their assistants has been a topic kicked around the racing industry since 1999. In the world at large, continuing education is a standard requirement to maintain an occupational license. Even hair stylists must complete courses to renew their credentials. But horse trainers, who have the lives of horses and riders in their hands, do not.     The Jockey Club's inaugural Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in 2006 identified the need for trainer continuing education to enhance equine welfare, health and safety. The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) joined the movement in 2008 when it issued the model rule requiring trainers to complete at least four hours per calendar year of approved continuing education courses in order to maintain a current license.     Model rules are suggested policies. They have no power of enforcement unless they are adopted by individual jurisdictions. The Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Safety Committee followed up by urging all racing jurisdictions to adopt the continuing education model rule.     The initiative gained supporters, with the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the North American Racing Academy (NARA), and the University of California-Davis joining forces to produce a series of 11 online modules called the Advanced Horsemanship Program. Cathy O'Meara, manager of Industry Initiatives for the Jockey Club, coordinates the program.     "The request from the industry was to provide an online platform for educational content that could be accessible for free to the industry and provide tracking," O'Meara said. "These [modules] were produced or reviewed by professors at NARA and UC-Davis, with most of the topics stemming from the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. The system used is Articulate, which is a standard online course development program used by many universities."     The courses include timely issues, such as bisphosphonate use in racehorses and the management of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). Another module teaches trainers how to identify horses at risk for a breakdown.     The UC-Davis modules on scapular and humeral fractures provide illustrations of the injuries that are reinforced by actual photos of the post-mortem examination of the fractured bones. The combination of the two, plus information about factors that contribute to these fractures, give trainers a better comprehension of what's going on inside the horse.     As of mid-June, 365 participants had accessed the program, completing 715 course modules. When a participant has completed a course, he or she can specify which racing jurisdiction(s) to notify. At present, New York, California and Delaware accept these certifications of completion. O'Meara maintains a file of certificates for other jurisdictions to be provided to them if and when they adopt a continuing education program.     The most popular course, with 106 completions, is UC-Davis' module on humeral fractures. The least popular course is "The Hoof Inside and Out," with only 20 completions. For a full list of the online courses, see the sidebar "Online Continuing Education Modules for Trainers and Assistants." These courses are free and open to the public.      New York: What not to do      New York is the only U.S. racing jurisdiction that requires continuing education for trainers and assistants. The New York State Gaming Commission approved the requirement in December 2016, mandating four hours of approved continuing education each calendar year as a requirement for license renewal, effective January 1, 2017. Those not domiciled in New York who have 12 or fewer starts during the previous 12 months may request a waiver of this requirement.     The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA) produced classroom presentations at the racetrack for horsemen to comply with the gaming commission's regulation. Online access to the continuing education program, which is available via YouTube, is simply a video of the classroom lectures, with no way to verify if the trainer actually watched the video. The gaming commission also accepts approved continuing education credits offered by the Grayson-Jockey Club, American Veterinary Medical Association-approved Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, other North American racing jurisdictions, and the ARCI.     The New York program fizzled. Nine days before the first year's deadline for compliance, a memo from Dr. Scott Palmer, the gaming commission's equine medical director, extended the deadline for compliance by 45 days, until February 15, 2018, because "many" trainers had not complied. What is interesting is that trainers need only email a form to the gaming commission that states they have completed the required continuing education courses. It's the honor system, with no proof required.     Attendance at the classroom lectures has been sparse. A presentation on August 22, 2017, delivered by Palmer, was attended by 30 participants, with one man visibly asleep in his seat; a presentation on biosecurity on August 21, 2018, had just two attendees, with the corresponding YouTube video gaining just 18 views.     Racing Hall of Fame trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey III, who has mastered the powerhouse Phipps stable since 1985, expressed his frustrations, not with the program but with the way the gaming commission presented it.     "It almost looked like, 'Well, you're a bunch of idiots, and you have to take this stuff to catch up.' And it was almost sort of a threatening gesture that if you didn't have it done, you weren't going to have a trainer's license," McGaughey said. "I called Dr. Palmer and he sent me the stuff, and I did it. There was some pretty interesting stuff in there. It was easy to do. But the threatening manner in which they did it didn't suit me."     McGaughey, with the help of NYTHA Executive Director Andrea "Andy" Belfiore, completed the online courses; plus he attended a classroom presentation on insurance. The 68-year-old trainer, who admitted, "I'm not really good with all that tech stuff," said it all was easier once he had some help. And the information presented was so interesting, he recommended it to his assistant and his son.     McGaughey said the gaming commission needs to brush up on its public relations.     "I think that probably the biggest mistake they made was when they kind of came out and were as aggressive as they were about it," he said. "A lot of times it doesn't hurt to explain to people in person instead of just online or in a memo or something.     "Don't make it look like we don't know what we're doing. I've been doing this for 40 years, and I'm not a genius, but I've got some sort of idea of what the rules are, what you need to do, how you get licensed, and all that kind of stuff. And I don't really need to have somebody throwing that in my face. So I would think that maybe if they had presented it a little better, if they would present it better, some of the stuff that they do, they just didn't handle it, I think, in the right direction."     Todd Pletcher, who has amassed 40 leading-trainer titles in New York since 1998, criticized the lack of communication regarding the program.     "I think it's a terrific idea, but my concern is that I haven't really seen much literature on it this year in terms of new courses and things like that," he said. "I think it's a good idea. My question is the execution of it.     "I haven't read anything this year of any new seminars or anything. I was talking to my assistants not too long ago about it to see if any of them had noticed anything. Actually, one of them made a point to ask me if we were having to do anything again this year. I said, 'Good question. I haven't heard anything.'"     Regarding low attendance, Pletcher said he understands that planning these classroom presentations to fit everyone's schedule is difficult.     "But I'm sure there is some work that could be done on it to improve that; perhaps try to pick out some times that are a little more convenient, especially with Saratoga this year with five days of racing per week," he said.     Pletcher offered this advice for increasing attendance and compliance:     "I think just getting the message out there is the main thing," he said. “Giving everyone plenty of advance notice and, certainly, I think there are a lot of people in the industry who would be glad to attend. Get some high-quality speakers through NYRA to come in and give a presentation, and that would be beneficial to everyone. But there has to be advance notification and trying to get the message out to everyone. That would be the key."     Trainers David Donk and Gary Gullo are in favor of continuing education for trainers and assistants. They commended Belfiore for organizing business-related classroom presentations for trainers, who are essentially a group of small businesses operating on the racetrack.     "Becoming a trainer isn't just about training horses anymore," Donk said. "You are running a business; you are president and CEO of your own company. So there are a lot of things that are entailed with day-to-day business. A lot of that is dealing with federal and state requirements. Some of it entails quite important information, especially in the State of New York—immigration issues and Department of Labor issues. Without even being a continuing education program, they are important seminars to listen to," he said.     Donk preferred to attend classroom presentations to complete his requirement, but he said online modules are necessary because classroom attendance is low. He also questioned how well the rule is enforced.     "I'm going to be honest. They're poorly attended," he said. "Some people might think it is a nuisance, but it's only four hours per year. … These seminars are quite educational, so it's something, as a trainer, you should be paying attention to."     Gullo has been training racehorses for 40 years. He doesn't object to continuing education being mandatory, because operating a racing stable is much different today, he said, especially following Department of Labor regulations.     "Growing up with the horses, it was like you had a groom and they groomed so many, and if they didn't like the job, they'd go somewhere else," he said. "That's the way it was. For me, I've been around so long that you're going to have to learn to follow it as it is today, or you're pig-headed and you end up being out of business. I think it's a great thing, but more people have got to get involved with the serious issues."     Gullo suggested more trainers would attend classroom sessions if the topics dealt with important issues facing the industry.     "It's not really getting to the right issues—the way the whole business is falling and about certain things (management, racetracks)...just the way this thing is going," he said. "I think if these issues will all come up, we'll be better educated about them."     Belfiore defended the classroom presentations, saying NYTHA has brought in experts in their respective fields, such as attorneys who discussed labor laws and sexual harassment in the workplace. The labor courses drew 25-30 attendees; an immigration course drew 15-18.     "Dr. Palmer did a couple last summer, and I don't think they were well attended, although I didn't go myself," she said.     "I don't think the issue really is how we're offering the courses," Belfiore continued. "I think it's just whether the trainers are motivated to do it or not. They certainly would have no trouble utilizing what the Jockey Club and what the gaming commission has to offer because they're very simple. I've gone through some of the Jockey Club courses myself, and the gaming commission ones are even easier. There's not even an interactive portion with that. So I'm sure any trainer who wants to do it has the wherewithal to do it.     "And even if our courses don't fall into their schedule, we try to schedule them at a time that is normally convenient for trainers—on a dark day after training when they're still around. I think it all comes down to motivation. Are the trainers motivated to do this or are they not?"     Despite multiple emails and calls to Brad Maione, director of communications for the gaming commission, requesting completion and enforcement statistics, they were not provided for this article. Palmer was given the opportunity to rebut criticisms of the program, but he declined to be interviewed.      Up next: California      California has been trying to launch a continuing education program for trainers since 1999. At the outset, the program was intended to be voluntary. When Rick Baedecker became executive director of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) in 2014, the program was languishing. It hadn't progressed through the necessary steps to attain adoption. When the CHRB decided to make continuing education a requirement for licensing and to put the courses online with the help of the University of California-Davis, it hit more snags.     "There are many regulations that have to be followed if you're putting a state-mandated program online," Baedeker said. "We learned that it's not just as easy as passing a rule. There are [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements if you're going to have written materials."     The solution was to go "old school" and return to the classroom setting. Baedeker said this was the simplest route to deliver continuing education because most trainers in California are based in the state, unlike New York, which draws trainers from surrounding states. CHRB Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur, in collaboration with UC-Davis, designed the curriculum with an emphasis on how bone responds to training and racing, so trainers can learn to identify horses at risk. Renowned surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage with Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky also contributed.     The most common objection by trainers is that every day is a continuing education for them, so they don't need others telling them how to do their job.     "That's fine. Then this will be a piece of cake for those folks," Baedeker said. "It's four hours a year. They can probably find the time to participate. I don't doubt that many trainers, maybe even most, are 100% qualified, but I worry when someone thinks they can't learn anything more. That's generally not a good place to be. And I do think there are a number of trainers that may have passed the trainers test many years ago that can certainly benefit from more recent study. We're not going to leave this to chance going forward."     The California program was approved for public notice on April 19, 2018. Adoption is expected, and the CHRB intends to fully implement the program by 2020. Trainers and their assistants will have to complete 12 hours of approved continuing education in order to renew their licenses. California licenses are renewed every three years, so this constitutes four hours of continuing education per year.     Racing Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, based in California, is a strong proponent of continuing education. Mandella began his training career in 1974 and has more than 250 graded stakes wins on his resume, including nine Breeders' Cup victories and the 2004 Dubai World Cup (with Pleasantly Perfect). Mandella campaigned five champions, including four-time Eclipse Award-winner Beholder.     "I am a supporter and believer that this needs to be done. And the main reason for it is that this industry and sport is under such scrutiny from the animal rights people," Mandella said. "Horsemen work hard and they come up learning, and in the old days that was great. But now we have PETA and people like that who are following each injury. We need to be able to stand up to the pressure and stay together."     Mandella believes trainers owe it to the racing industry to be up to date on current research in addition to having a good understanding of the horse's anatomy and physiology, medication and hoof care. Fewer injuries will give those bent on racing's destruction less ammunition for their attack.    "When a person says, 'This horse's knees are remodeling,' he needs to understand what that means and what the consequence is if he keeps pushing," Mandella said. "When you do a bone scan and they say, 'His condyles lit up pretty good. He might be trying to get a condylar fracture,' they need to take it real serious and know what they're talking about so that they don't complete that process. Bone remodeling is an important topic now."     Mandella said it is no longer acceptable for trainers to rely on hearsay for knowledge. They need to get evidence-based information from experts in the field, and this can be accomplished through approved continuing education courses.     "People used to just believe something was right because somebody told them so," he said. "Now, as studies and research are done, you find out that's not always the true answer."      On Kentucky's Agenda      The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has been buried for two years in Gov. Matt Bevin's Red Tape Reduction Initiative, which required state agencies to simplify regulations by removing outdated language and redundant passages. During that time, the KHRC was not permitted to make any substantive changes in the regulations.     "Now that we've finished the red-tape reduction, we're going to have discussions and make some other regulatory changes, and continuing education for trainers is going to be on that list," said Executive Director Marc Guilfoil. "We're going to talk it over and vet it through with all the constituents out there. I think it's a great idea."     Guilfoil put the topic on the Rules Committee agenda. He said he can't guarantee the commission will pass the regulation, but he can guarantee the proposal will be well-vetted. Guilfoil also is a strong proponent of continuing education. He has been a licensed steward for 30 years for Standardbred, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred racing, and he said he still attends continuing education classes.     Since 2012, the KHRC has been conducting mortality reviews of every horse that dies in a race or during training. The aim is to discuss the results of the horse's post-mortem examination with everyone involved with the horse so they can understand the factors leading up to its death.     "It's an informal discussion," Guilfoil explained. "We sit down and meet with the trainer, stewards, equine medical director, the jockey, track personnel who might have been involved, and others. We just go over what happened, what we could have done different. There are some things that maybe a trainer does not understand about something that a veterinarian or our equine medical director or stewards maybe can explain to the trainer. I think that would be a perfect part of continuing education."     Going one step further, Guilfoil said continuing education could be a proactive approach by having these kind of discussions before a fatality occurs.     "There is a lot learned from all sides in those mortality reviews," he said. "So why can't we implement something like that in trainers’ education? That way we're not at a mortality review talking about a dead horse; maybe we can talk about it prior to [a fatality], and it may help the horse.     "I don't want to downplay the mortality review, and I don't want to up-play the fact that trainer continuing education would keep horses from breaking down, but it might. There may be something in the discussion that registers with the trainer. And it would help us understand why they're doing what they're doing, and maybe we can have a discussion on changing that."      Indiana's Brief Excursion      Indiana was the first state to adopt the ARCI model rule for mandatory continuing education for trainers. Under then Executive Director Joe Gorajec, the Indiana Horse Racing Commission adopted the program in 2013 in the face of strong opposition from horsemen, who objected to it being mandatory. Once it was passed, however, the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association got on board, bringing in excellent speakers for the program.     "The HBPA was very helpful," Gorajec said. "They worked with us to put on workshops, and we had a very good success rate getting the local population of trainers to participate in the workshops and participate in continuing education."     Because online courses were not available at the time, Indiana's continuing education classes had to be held on the racetrack grounds there. More than a few out-of-state trainers, primarily those in Kentucky, balked at having to travel to Indiana to get the required credits to renew their licenses. With race fields already dwindling, the absence of entries from Kentucky became a critical issue.     "A few horses here and there can make the difference of seeing a race go or a card go," Gorajec said. "The reason we pulled the plug was that I didn't want to have the continuing education mandate be a liability for the racetrack to attract horses."     Despite its repeal in 2015, the Indiana program was a success. Some topics presented were regulatory issues, horsemanship, access to veterinary knowledge, medication and immigration. The goal was to enable trainers to expand their horizons with regard to correct information that they otherwise would not have bothered to seek, Gorajec said. He explained the commission's philosophy.     "We wanted to meet the horsemen where they were at, and then expand their knowledge base," he said. "So it wasn't remedial, but on the other hand, it wasn't over their heads. Maybe we made them stretch a little bit, but you can't go in one extreme or the other, or they won't get anything out of it. You have to give them something they can use every day."     Ed Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, finds it difficult to understand why more jurisdictions haven't mandated continuing education for trainers, when others in the industry have done the development work and paved the way.     "If commissions were to follow Indiana's brief breakthrough in making continuing education mandatory, they would not need to undergo expense for creating the curriculum or recording who has met the requirement," Bowen said. "Long term, of course, there would be some cost and organization involved with ongoing curriculum selection and development, but the basics are in place. … We have tried to explain we are, in fact, offering quick and ready updates on scientific work that can help them, at very little effort and no expense."        [Sidebar]      Online Continuing-Education Modules for Trainers and Assistants       Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation & University of California-Davis:   ( https://courses.grayson-jockeyclub.org)      101 - Understanding & Managing EHV-1  102 - The Hoof: Inside & Out  103 - Understanding the National Uniform Medication Program - August 2016  104 - Introduction to Thoroughbred Risk & Protective Factors  105 - Nutrition and Balanced Feed Programs  106 - Jockey Safety (Courtesy of UC-Davis)  107 - Bisphosphonates in Racehorses  203 - Understanding the National Uniform Medication Program - February 2018  California’s Racing Safety Program Overview (Courtesy of UC-Davis)  Humeral Fractures in Race Horses (Courtesy of UC-Davis)  Scapular Fractures in Race Horses (Courtesy of UC-Davis)      New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association:   (via  YouTube )  Findings of the NYS Thoroughbred Post-Mortem Examination Program  Risk & Protective Factors–How Can We Use Them to Prevent Injury?  Fetlock CT To Assess Proximal Sesamoid Bone Fracture Risk  Challenges Specific to the Saratoga Meet

By Denise Steffanus

Continuing education for trainers and their assistants has been a topic kicked around the racing industry since 1999. In the world at large, continuing education is a standard requirement to maintain an occupational license. Even hair stylists must complete courses to renew their credentials. But horse trainers, who have the lives of horses and riders in their hands, do not.

The Jockey Club's inaugural Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in 2006 identified the need for trainer continuing education to enhance equine welfare, health and safety. The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) joined the movement in 2008 when it issued the model rule requiring trainers to complete at least four hours per calendar year of approved continuing education courses in order to maintain a current license. 

Model rules are suggested policies. They have no power of enforcement unless they are adopted by individual jurisdictions. The Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Safety Committee followed up by urging all racing jurisdictions to adopt the continuing education model rule. 

The initiative gained supporters, with the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the North American Racing Academy (NARA), and the University of California-Davis joining forces to produce a series of 11 online modules called the Advanced Horsemanship Program. Cathy O'Meara, manager of Industry Initiatives for the Jockey Club, coordinates the program.

"The request from the industry was to provide an online platform for educational content that could be accessible for free to the industry and provide tracking," O'Meara said. "These [modules] were produced or reviewed by professors at NARA and UC-Davis, with most of the topics stemming from the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. The system used is Articulate, which is a standard online course development program used by many universities."

The courses include timely issues, such as bisphosphonate use in racehorses and the management of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). Another module teaches trainers how to identify horses at risk for a breakdown. 

The UC-Davis modules on scapular and humeral fractures provide illustrations of the injuries that are reinforced by actual photos of the post-mortem examination of the fractured bones. The combination of the two, plus information about factors that contribute to these fractures, give trainers a better comprehension of what's going on inside the horse. 

As of mid-June, 365 participants had accessed the program, completing 715 course modules. When a participant has completed a course, he or she can specify which racing jurisdiction(s) to notify. At present, New York, California and Delaware accept these certifications of completion. O'Meara maintains a file of certificates for other jurisdictions to be provided to them if and when they adopt a continuing education program. 

The most popular course, with 106 completions, is UC-Davis' module on humeral fractures. The least popular course is "The Hoof Inside and Out," with only 20 completions. For a full list of the online courses, see the sidebar "Online Continuing Education Modules for Trainers and Assistants." These courses are free and open to the public.

New York: What not to do

New York is the only U.S. racing jurisdiction that requires continuing education for trainers and assistants. The New York State Gaming Commission approved the requirement in December 2016, mandating four hours of approved continuing education each calendar year as a requirement for license renewal, effective January 1, 2017. Those not domiciled in New York who have 12 or fewer starts during the previous 12 months may request a waiver of this requirement. 

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA) produced classroom presentations at the racetrack for horsemen to comply with the gaming commission's regulation. Online access to the continuing education program, which is available via YouTube, is simply a video of the classroom lectures, with no way to verify if the trainer actually watched the video. The gaming commission also accepts approved continuing education credits offered by the Grayson-Jockey Club, American Veterinary Medical Association-approved Colleges of Veterinary Medicine, other North American racing jurisdictions, and the ARCI.

 Cathy O'Meara speaks at the Jockey Club Roundtable 2017 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel August 13, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The New York program fizzled. Nine days before the first year's deadline for compliance, a memo from Dr. Scott Palmer, the gaming commission's equine medical director, extended the deadline for compliance by 45 days, until February 15, 2018, because "many" trainers had not complied. What is interesting is that trainers need only email a form to the gaming commission that states they have completed the required continuing education courses. It's the honor system, with no proof required.  

Attendance at the classroom lectures has been sparse. A presentation on August 22, 2017, delivered by Palmer, was attended by 30 participants, with one man visibly asleep in his seat; a presentation on biosecurity on August 21, 2018, had just two attendees, with the corresponding YouTube video gaining just 18 views.

Claude “Shug” McGaughey III

Claude “Shug” McGaughey III

Racing Hall of Fame trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey III, who has mastered the powerhouse Phipps stable since 1985, expressed his frustrations, not with the program but with the way the gaming commission presented it. 

"It almost looked like, 'Well, you're a bunch of idiots, and you have to take this stuff to catch up.' And it was almost sort of a threatening gesture that if you didn't have it done, you weren't going to have a trainer's license," McGaughey said. "I called Dr. Palmer and he sent me the stuff, and I did it. There was some pretty interesting stuff in there. It was easy to do. But the threatening manner in which they did it didn't suit me."

McGaughey, with the help of NYTHA Executive Director Andrea "Andy" Belfiore, completed the online courses; plus he attended a classroom presentation on insurance. The 68-year-old trainer, who admitted, "I'm not really good with all that tech stuff," said it all was easier once he had some help. And the information presented was so interesting, he recommended it to his assistant and his son.

 McGaughey said the gaming commission needs to brush up on its public relations.

"I think that probably the biggest mistake they made was when they kind of came out and were as aggressive as they were about it," he said. "A lot of times it doesn't hurt to explain to people in person instead of just online or in a memo or something. 

"Don't make it look like we don't know what we're doing. I've been doing this for 40 years, and I'm not a genius, but I've got some sort of idea of what the rules are, what you need to do, how you get licensed, and all that kind of stuff. And I don't really need to have somebody throwing that in my face. So I would think that maybe if they had presented it a little better, if they would present it better, some of the stuff that they do, they just didn't handle it, I think, in the right direction."

Todd Pletcher, who has amassed 40 leading-trainer titles in New York since 1998, criticized the lack of communication regarding the program…

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