Harness Horsemen International's annual meeting wrapped up its second day at the Embassy Suites Resort in Deerfield Beach, Fla. On Monday (Dec. 6), the HHI General Session welcomed veterinarians Dr. Larry Soma and Dr. Mary Robinson from Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.
Dr. Soma discussed drug detection in racehorses and identifying markers of drugs by non-traditional means, citing testing procedures for steroids and high blood gas levels (TCO2) as examples. He also compared the tolerance levels for DMSO (Dimethyl sulfoxide) in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Robinson spoke on current changes in doping detection, including violations that are non-medicinal, such as shock wave therapy. She explained how testing labs use a protein banding detection system that seeks changes in plasma and white blood cell counts to determine if a horse has had a shock wave treatment too close to race time.
Other topics debated on Dec. 6: the review of third-party liability coverage for all participating horsemen's associations; an examination of HHI's budget, dues and finances; and the planning of HHI's 2011 annual meeting.
As well, the legal committee accepted the application for the formation of the Western New England Harness Horsemen's Association. The WNEHHA is striving to revive harness racing at Rockingham Park. While they have a current contract with Rockingham and are receiving revenues from simulcasting, the WNEHHA hopes to bring expanding gaming to New Hampshire.
The Tuesday (Dec. 7) General Session featured USTA President Phil Langley and Delaware's Bill Oberle, Jr. Langley gave an overview of USTA services and the success of the Back To The Track promotion, while Oberle -- who recently retired after 33 years of service in the Delaware legislature -- spoke on how horsemen can interact with legislators, citing his home state as an example.
Oberle is considered by many to be the architect of the agrarian model, and the person responsible for initiating the combination of VLTs (video lottery terminals) at racetracks. He emphasized the need by horsemen to educate their general assemblies that horse racing is an economic faction and not just a hobby.
Wednesday's(Dec. 8) General Session agenda includes keynote speaker Jay Hickey of the American Horse Council, followed by elections, committee and association reports.
HHI's annual awards banquet will be held that evening, where three men will be acknowledged for their contributions to harness racing: William A. Oberle, Jr. (2010 Dominic Frinzi HHI Person of the Year); Russell Williams (2010 HHI Appreciation Award); and John Pawlak (2010 Clyde Hirt Media Award).
Harness Horsemen International is comprised of harness horsemen's associations from throughout the United States and Canada.
by Kimberly Rinker, for Harness Horsemen's International