The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) is developing protocol designed to improve the relationship among owners, trainers, and veterinarians in horse racing.

Scott Palmer, VMD, director of the New Jersey Equine Clinic and chair of the AAEP Racing Committee, said discussions led to the realization that more could be done to improve the owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship in a way that would "improve horse welfare, reduce the cost of veterinary services, and improve the business model of racing."

Palmer discussed the initiative during the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing & Gaming in Tucson Dec. 7. Much of it centers on communication.

"The classic owner-trainer relationship in its simplest form is a hierarchical relationship with the owner at the top," Palmer said. "The owner hires the trainer, and the trainer hires the veterinarian. The veterinarian, however, bills the owner, occasionally with the bill being first reviewed and approved by the trainer. In this hierarchical relationship all communication between the owner and veterinarian is filtered through the trainer.

"Most often there is a direct line of communication between owner and trainer and between trainer and veterinarian, but the communication between the owner and veterinarian is usually inconsistent, provoked by a serious medical condition of the horse or a large anticipated medical expense," he continued. "As in any triangular relationship among three people, two of the people in the relationship are most often talking about the third, missing person. That’s where the trouble starts."