IMPORTANT NOTICE – Intra-articular Corticosteroids / National / 16 Jan, 2014

Further to the ATA’s previous communication relating to the deferment of Australian Rules of Racing proposed New Rule AR.64M as it applies to the administration and use of Corticosteroid preparations on racehorses, to allow for proper consultation with stakeholder groups, the Australian Racing Board has provided the following background outlining their considerations in proposing this Rule.

We thank Members who have already provided their feedback and sought veterinarian advice on this issue.
Again, we strongly urge members to provide feedback to the ATA in writing, and seek the professional advice of your own veterinarian on the potential impact of this Rule on the training and racing of your racehorses.


Currently there is no Australian Rule of Racing covering intra-articular corticosteroids and the ARB believes that this situation cannot continue as medication control is essential for integrity, animal welfare and safety of riders.

Whilst Australia has no specific rule for intra-articular corticosteroids, trainers and vets assume that their use is controlled by testing of race day urine samples so that in practice there is a 7 days stand down period. This is not the case in actual fact. Current lab techniques are insufficient to control intra-articular corticosteroids as joints are small spaces and medicine injected is less distributed around the body so that only very low levels can be found – if at all – in blood and urine sampling.

The ARB accepts that corticosteroids are a perfectly legitimate therapeutic medication. However, they believe there is the potential for increased risk of breakdown injury in horses injected with corticosteroids into their joints. The welfare and safety of both horse and rider are increasingly being called into account as there is emerging data linking injections of corticosteroids to breakdowns.

The ARB’s Veterinary and Analysts Committee (VAC) has considered the issue at length taking into account the papers prepared by the International Group of Specialist Racing Veterinarians (IGSRV) chaired by Racing Victoria’s Dr Brian Stewart and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities Welfare Committee recommending an international standard of a 14 day Stand Down Time after application of intra-articular corticosteroids. Most racing jurisdictions around the world have moved to introduce a 14 day Stand Down Time.

However, in the Australian context the ARB supports a Stand Down Time of 12 days. Many horses race 2 weeks apart and a 14 day stand down period could play havoc with their programs. In effect, a 14 day stand down period allows a horse to race only every 3 weeks which is an unnecessary restriction on its program.

In Australia horses commonly race fortnightly throughout a preparation as this is often considered an ideal period for a horse to recover between runs. In addition, critical lead up races to Group events are often programmed to be run fortnightly for this very reason and it fits in well with most horses’ preparations.

The ARB believes that a 12 day stand down period will facilitate and encourage proper veterinary examination and assessment of intra-articular corticosteroid treatments. A 12 day stand down would still have a beneficial effect on racehorse welfare by encouraging more judicious use of intra-articular corticosteroids thus minimising the incident of breakdowns. The principle aim of the stand down is to prevent doses of intra-articular corticosteroids being repeatedly administered only a few days prior to racing, often without a comprehensive veterinary assessment to determine the cause of lameness.

In summary, the ARB believes a new Rule governing the application of intra-articular corticosteroids is required for the following reasons:

1. Emerging data linking corticosteroids to breakdowns with attendant rider and horse safety concerns.

2. Increased risk (4.5 times) of muscoskeletal injuries in racehorses administered corticosteroids.

3. Corticosteroids administered on occasions without proper diagnosis and modification of training and racing regimes.

4. Corticosteroid levels in blood and urine decline rapidly which current routine analytical methods are unable to detect.

Please click on the links below to view the following documents:

1. Draft Australian Rule of Racing setting a 12 day (or 10 Clear Days) Stand Down for horses treated with intra-articular corticosteroids.

2. Advice tendered to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities by the International Group of Specialist Racing Veterinarians dated 5th February 2013.

3. Advice tendered to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities by the Horse Welfare Committee dated March 2013.

CLICK HERE to provide your feedback.