Can Sport Horse and Racehorse Practice Be Ethical?

Practice can and should be ethical, but it’s not always easy. Pressure applied by trainers or owners can be substantial.

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Nearly 400 veterinarians considered this question during a 3 1/2-hour panel discussion, reaching a consensus of, “Absolutely, yes. Practice can and should be ethical, even in the sport horse or racehorse world.” But it’s not always easy. The pressures applied by trainers or owners can be substantial.

Earlier in the day, at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida, ethics speaker Chuck Gallagher presented a keynote talk titled Ethics, Integrity, and the Power of Choices in Life and Business. He highlighted that every choice has a consequence, and said the three primary reasons people have ethical lapses are financial problems, relationship problems, and health issues.

Ethical lapses don’t start out big, but they happen when there’s a need, an opportunity, then a rationalization. When life gets out of balance, human nature seeks quick solutions.

During the panel discussion, 10 veterinarians walked attendees through a series of case studies. The cases varied from questions of what a veterinarian is obligated to disclose (such as to owners, insurance companies, prospective buyers, on prepurchase exams; and so forth) to questions of trainers requesting questionable or unapproved services, such as neurectomy for caudal heel pain or “cutting tails” in performance horses (“nicking,” or cutting tendons to cause elevated tail carriage); dispensing certain drugs; or signing health certificates for horses the veterinarian hasn’t examined

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Written by:

Maureen Gallatin is a freelance writer, founder of Horses on a Mission, and author of the inspirational devotional, An Extra Flake.

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