Friday, December 13, 2013

Workers Compensation Insurance in the thoroughbred racing industry - next target for reform?

We just had a horrific experience trying to help a trainer obtain Workers Compensation insurance in the state of Florida. Despite having a perfect insurance paper trail for many years in another state, it took him ONE MONTH to navigate the process of getting insurance in Florida. It took that long despite a very helpful Florida agent who was the go between for the underwriter and the trainer as she methodically asked for each piece of documentation required by the underwriter.

Trainers are busy people who do not generally spend all day in the office, on the computer and phone to take care of this kind of problem, so I offered to help. What I learned about Workers Compensation insurance was eye opening. I heard from several people that some states/racetracks have an insurance pool for trainers to make it much easier to satisfy track requirements. This is only hearsay, but I heard that the horsemen's organization in Louisiana handles the insurance pool, and trainers just hand over some $ and they are done. If anyone can shed light on this insurance pool and how it works, I would appreciate some information.

For Florida, no less than 15 emails were exchanged between trainer and insurance agent, and no less than five long phone calls to the trainer's "old" insurance company to obtain documentation required by the new insurance company. Part of the problem was a certain amount of obstruction by the "old" company, which is such bad business. After all, the trainer will need his old policy again when he returns from Florida in the spring.

Another thing that I discovered in Florida is a company that provides WC insurance to a trainer if the company is hired to run the stable's payroll. Good idea except for the requirement of this company that the trainer turn over control of his or her checking account. Plus the trainer must sign a contract giving the company the right to withdraw funds at any time in any amount with no binding terms for ending the agreement. Before doing something like this I'd say get a lot of references from the company's current and former clients.

Worker's Compensation insurance is incredibly expensive, and varies depending on the size of the stable and number of employees. All aspiring trainers should beware that a PERFECT paper trail showing that payroll is done "by the book" is mandatory. So before considering a career training horses at the track, carefully consider how much $ Workers Compensation insurance - and a reliable bookkeeper - is going to cost!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What is the Keeneland September Sale really like?

The Paulick Report ( Indian Charlie ( provide the most compelling accounts from the Keeneland Sale, here's just a small sample, "Spot On" >>

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's not easy to get a trainer's license in some (or most) states

Recently a question came up at, "I would like to know how to get the license for race horse trainer in Florida. I have not found any information about this."

So I set about getting the information. It's a little easier if you show up in person at the racing commission office at the track in Florida during a live racing meet. The office will be staffed at that time and ready to provide and process applications.

But if it's the off season, you can find some information at the Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation web site, on the page there for PROFESSIONAL INDIVIDUAL OCCUPATIONAL LICENSE.

Fingerprints are required. You can get fingerprints taken at the local police station, or some cities may have private services listed in the yellow pages.

If you have any kind of criminal background, you will be called to give details about that. If you have been convicted of a felony, you will not get a trainer's license.

If you have never had a trainer's license before, you will have to take some form of test, and in our experience this testing will vary from state to state. You must inquire at the state racing commission office to get testing details. Racing Commission contact details can be found at

You may be wondering about the reason for the stringent requirements of the background check and extensive information required on the trainer license application. This came about when racetracks started hosting casino style gambling. We believe that with the spread of casino gambling at racetracks, the rules of racing and licensing requirements must be standardized nationally.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Joe D. captures the beauty of mornings at the track.

Here is a really nice piece from Joe Drape of the New York Times, about a visit to Saratoga during training hours. Joe captures the beauty of mornings at the track. Every owner should come out regularly in the mornings, and every fan/handicapper should have the opportunity to hang out on the "backside" in the mornings occasionally. There is a wealth to learn and understand about the "game" that is only possible during training hours, up close to the horses and the people who care for and train them.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

From Good to Bad in a Blink of an Eye - this is how it happens

I saw this article mentioned on LinkedIn today: From Good to Bad in a Blink of an Eye

This caught my eye because it brings back so many memories of the considerable number of people that I saw get injured over the years of working with horses. There are so, so many. It is important to make sure young people who want to do any job with horses knows the considerable risks so they are properly trained and always aware.

For instance, at an arabian breeding farm I saw the manager pinned against the wall by a stallion that had her back in his teeth. I saw a co-worker hit in the head by a yearling thoroughbred colt that reared up in the stall and came down on him with a hoof. That man had to have a part of his skull removed due to a fracture. My husband was run over by a stable pony at Gulfstream Park while he was standing on the rail during training hours, hit in the head with a hoof and rolled on - he was not seriously injured. So many exercise riders slammed into walls by horses walking under tack in the shedrow, and exercise riders fallen on, rolled on. I don't want to think about the all the jockeys. Oh yeah and many hotwalkers and grooms dragged down to the pavement by horses running off while on a lead shank as their handler bravely tried to hang on - this happened to me once or twice when I was green and just starting as a groom.

Farriers are not only skilled at taking care of hooves but they also have to be incredibly skilled at avoiding injury. I remember the incredible Sam Jorris who trimmed all the yearlings while they were turned out in a big pasture. I was there just to keep the other horses off him and try to keep the horse he was working on fairly stationary. I marveled every month that we got that job done without mishap.

We talk so much about the horse injuries that can happen in and out of competition but it's important to remember the risks that all the people involved take because they want the honor of working with horses.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

thinking about horse auctions

The article I just read at The Paulick Report, "YEARLING SCOPES MAY NOT REVEAL ISSUES AT EXERCISE" inspires a few thoughts. I always thought that buying horses at auction is not smart and I wonder why so many people do buy horses this way.

My wish is that breeders would sell their horses direct from the farm and skip all the sales prep and commissions to sales companies. I've noticed that sellers nearly always price their horses at double what buyers are willing to pay, so objectivity is definately a barrier to successful sales. If breeders can sell their horses objectively they can be successful doing it themselves. Expenses will be controlled, mob hype will be eliminated from the process, the horses will be better off, buyers will learn by seeing horses in their natural environment and by doing the research that they should do before buying a horse. Vet exams and scopes of horses for sale should be planned and negotiated between buyer and seller on a case by case basis.

I know that industry insiders like the big sales because they meet up with other insiders there and these meet-ups often drive their business, but the people who are paying for the horses rarely benefit from attending and buying at auctions versus private sales.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I haven't written a lot in the last few months because frankly not much is going on in racing for the average joe trainer and owner in the U.S. Many are out of business as purse money fails to keep up with the expense of keeping a horse in training. This spring 2013, my husband and I are not involved in racing directly. Instead we're growing a racehorse quality hay crop on the farm of an Illinois thoroughbred breeder. We started the experiment last year, offering to cut and bale the hay in exchange for a percentage of the resulting bales. We would not have made it through the whole racing year in 2012 without the savings we had with this hay deal. So this year we reseeded the hay fields early with what we consider the perfect racehorse hay - mostly timothy with some clover, orchard grass and alfalfa. We are currently anticipating the first cutting late May.

So we've learned a lot about hay. I remember being on the racetrack back side back in the 1990's, walking by the famous stables at the track like D. Wayne Lukas, and seeing brightly colored and very uniform bales of timothy hay. I don't know how that hay gets the unnatural hue, but I do know it was very expensive. This expensive hay never had any sign of weeds in it. I think owners should know that feed and bedding is the 2nd highest expense that most trainers have, only after payroll. Fancy looking hay can only be considered superior in superficial appearance to less expensive but thoughtfully cultivated, cut and cured racehorse hay that may include a few weeds.

On the subject of weeds, we only removed those weeds from the hay fields that horses won't eat or are harmful to eat. Horses know which weeds are bad for them and usually won't eat them unless they are starving. In addition, if you have ever watched a horse graze in the midwest USA, he will often go to two weeds, the dandelion and the plantain, before eating the grass. The dandelion flowers, leaves and roots have health benefits, and many "old-timers" know that dandelion is a natural diuretic - possibly a natural alternative to lasix/salix.

The plantain herb is said to have a myriad of medicinal benefits including speeding cell replacement. The photos show the dandelion and two common varieties of the plantain weed, one broad leafed and the other narrow leafed, both edible and beneficial.

What we believe is that racehorses are finely tuned athletes that require finely managed daily care in their diet, training, competition and recovery routines. The most expensive routine is not necessarily the best, so we have to constantly keep learning while trying to make the best decisions for our horses.

Here's a couple interesting links for information on health benefits of dandelion and plantain:

about plantain >>

about dandelion >>

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Oh boy did the Daily Racing Form come up with a great educational article about the racing business, trainers and jockeys. Click here to read this article >> It's long but is a must read for new owners. The problem that keeps on raising its ugly head is owners who can't face the high cost of owning racehorses. Too often an owner thinks it's ok to gamble that a horse will be able to support himself with purse money, but this kind of gambling always leads to disaster for everyone involved.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is an insightful article and comments about how skilled exercise riders and jockeys really are - READ THIS!