Bringing Horseracing Record Keeping into the 21st Century

March 18, 2021

We use our cellphones for all types of tasks in our daily lives. How many apps do you have loaded on your phone? Well, if you work with an equine athlete, here’s a very useful one. Enter Equine MediRecord (EMR), a revolutionary web and phone app that has upgraded traditional handwritten records to a digital mobile platform. It makes perfect sense that a tool that is in the hands of every trainer and veterinarian all day long—a cell phone—can hold an app designed to make the clutter in their lives disappear. Paper clutter that is. 

Trainers in horse racing and other equestrian disciplines have to keep medication records for their horses to satisfy regulators. These books and paperwork can be unruly to manage and may even require a secretary to keep it all in order – a cumbersome cost for many trainers, not to mention the potential for common errors or the dangers of record books being damaged or lost, which may compromise the welfare of the horse. The answer is digitize. 

The idea of a digital and centralized record keeping system was the brainchild of Pierce Dargan, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and generational horseman, along with Simon Hillary, a graduate of TCD in Computer Science & Business with a background in workflow optimization through IT. Also a co-founder was Dargan’s brother, Finlay, as the financial side. Finlay had worked for KPMG as an accountant prior to the launch of EMR.

With the development of his platform, Dargan hopes the antiquated method of record keeping on paper, which is still the industry’s go-to, will truly become a thing of the past. Coming from a family of five generations of horse trainers, Dargan knows first-hand. “This was a problem I was having for recording all the regulatory documentation for horses. It was a nightmare, it’s still paper-based all around the world,” he says.

The industry has been in need of a digital solution for a long time but no one has gotten it right yet Dargan says. “It didn’t work (with other companies) because they were developers, they didn’t have anyone from the (equine) industry. I think it’s why we got further than any of the other system. Simon and I complement (each other).” 

Old attitudes have stymied innovation to a degree, too: “My family has been in the industry for some time and it’s quite slow to change. People are naturally averse to change,” Dargan says. EMR has tailored the app to a learning curve for users. 

Finlay Dargan, Simon Hillary and Pierce Dargan. 

The Inception of EMR

Equine MediRecord was founded in 2016 and is based in The Curragh, county Kildare, Ireland, and has been strongly supported from its foundation by the Kildare Local Enterprise Office and Trinity College, Dublin.

Dargan and Hillary, spent two years refining the product and understanding the regulations through 30 iterations before launching in March of 2019. The journey from idea to implementation was long and arduous. It included getting approved for medicines register by the Turf Club, the horseracing regulatory body in the UK, and navigating the lengthy list of animal medicines regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

Alan Dargan, Pierce’s Father (left), Pierce and his brother, Finlay at the Irish Midlands Best Young Entrepreneur Awards. 

Since its start up, Equine MediRecord has become an award-winning company that is well-established in Europe, and Pierce Dargan is now the chief executive of Equine MediRecord, and Hillary, the Chief Technology Officer.

Equine MediRecords has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2021 Think Global Awards in the Life Sciences category. The Think Global Awards recognize the achievements of people, projects, brands, and organizations around the world. The winners will be announced at this year’s virtual ceremony, taking place in April 2021.

EMR web and smartphone platforms

The App

Easy to use and self-explanatory, EMR’s software solves a previously unmet need by allowing proper, timely recording of all regulatory medicines administered to horses, as well as recording their vaccination records. The app is set to be compliant with the applicable regulatory information for a specific client’s location. This is extremely beneficial in North America as there are 38 different jurisdictions.  

Trainers can be certain they are compliant with the latest equine welfare regulations automatically, while veterinarians can access a horse’s full medical history, ensuring they receive the best possible care. Moreover, regulators and administrators can be sent digital copies of records before races or during equine disease outbreaks.

Examples of such biosecurity risks are Equine encephalitis, Equine influenza, Strangles, Hendra virus (which can also affect humans) all of which can be devastating to the industry, not only to racehorses, but breeding stock as well.

The app tracks what medication a horse has received, why the treatment was given and the dosage. “Our system does not allow you to input a treatment that isn’t compliant to the current regulation. A lot of the time people were getting fines because they weren’t recording everything that needs to be recorded,” Dargan says.

When the time comes for the horse to be tested, the trainer can present the app’s records to the authorities, which should match up with the test results.

The app was not designed to catch cheaters. However, it can help prove innocence if a trainer is questioned regarding a test. This is especially important with America’s Absolute Insurer Rule. 

The app also has capabilities to scan bar and QR codes where applicable. It can also link to a chip scanner to pick up an embedded chip in a horse. 

Records upload to the Cloud for sharing and data protection is another concern so any system handling such private information electronically needs to have a high level of security. “With our system, the trainer signs up to the platform, then he is able to invite his vet or his assistant on to the system with their own personal PIN,” Dargan explains. This ensures that records cannot be lost, damaged or tampered with. Once closed on the system, the system’s biggest pro, it creates accountability and transparency within the industry, particularly in relation to anti-doping and equine. The app streamlines and simplifies the maintenance and record keeping of individual horses. 

Pierce Dargan attended the 2020 Breeder’s Cup at Keeneland

Partnering with the Breeder’s Cup World Championships 

As the new Horseracing Integrity Act passed through the United States Congress, U.S. racing industry leaders have continued to embrace the sweeping reforms. The most recent of which saw EMR provided its revolutionary software to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships held at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky last November.

The new system which EMR has developed for the Breeders’ Cup automatically informed trainers from across the world of the safety and integrity regulations that needed to be followed and what documents needed to be submitted through the system to allow their horses to run in the Breeders’ Cup. The Breeders’ Cup has been a leader in adopting and creating stringent regulations to ensure the welfare and safety of the human and equine athletes competing at its event.

It is the trainer’s responsibility to submit these records but a lot of the time it is vets or assistants who record this information as the trainer can only be in one place at a time. The trainer therefore relies on other people to submit the correct information about the medicines given to the horses. The EMR system notifies the trainer in real time if a medication has been given and once confirmed to be correct, is signed by the trainer. Again, preventing issues with the Absolute Insurer Rule. 

Once records are entered into the system they could not be altered, providing integrity and transparency for all concerned. With strict requirements in place for the competition at the Breeders’ Cup, such a tool ensured the integrity of the records while also allowing them to be digitally submitted to regulators like the Kentucky Racing Commission and Breeders’ Cup officials. This system also eliminated passing around paperwork to various partners who are following COVID-19 protocols.

“The Equine MediRecord system is a major breakthrough in providing the latest and most comprehensive medical and testing records for all participants the World Championships,” said Dora Delgado, Breeders’ Cup Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Officer, “We were proud to partner with EMR.”

Pierce Dargan said: “It is an amazing privilege to work with the Breeders’ Cup. When we started the company five years ago it was one of our dreams to build the technology to help ensure the best possible care is given to the top thoroughbred horses from around the world to compete at the Breeders’ Cup.”

Churchill Downs ready for the Kentucky Derby (Eric Kalet)

EMR in Kentucky

Equine MediRecord was asked to present its system at the Association of Racing Commissioners International 2020 Conference on Racing Integrity and Animal Welfare in New Orleans in April, but this was unfortunately cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With the positive reception from all parties, EMR’s software will soon be in use in Kentucky. 

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association (KTA) stated “the KTA was pleased to financially support Equine MediRecord to enable them to populate the Kentucky regulations, thus providing Kentucky horsemen and women with new tools to comply with racing reforms on record keeping and trainer responsibility. Moreover, better record keeping provides a ‘paper trail’ that protects trainers, their horses and owners.”

Dr. Will Farmer, Equine Medical Director of Churchill Downs, home racetrack of the Kentucky Derby, stated after seeing the system: “I think this would be a great tool for trainers!” 

Dr. Jeffrey Berk, a well-respected equine veterinarian in Lexington, agreed, saying “I think that this technology could be a useful tool for trainers to help them accurately record the medications their horses are receiving, as well as an aid to keeping in compliance with the medication rules of any athletic discipline that their horses are competing in.”

Beautiful Santa Anita Racetrack (Santa Anita)

EMR and California Horseracing

The company is gaining interest and traction in California in Thoroughbred racing, shown by the over 120 trainers who attended a California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) webinar on February 2, 2021, where Pierce Dargan demonstrated the EMR system. In addition, the CHRB trainer treatment recording requirement was discussed along with the CHRB’s Dr. Rick Arthur, Equine Medical Director, and Dr Dionne Benson, Chief Veterinary Officer for The Stronach Group.

Partnering with Arabian Racing Association of California

Horse racing in California has been under significant scrutiny in recent years, but industry leaders have embraced sweeping reforms, the most recent of which sees Equine MediRecord gaining accolades in the state with the official endorsement of the Arabian Racing Association of California (ARAC).

EMR built a specific system to comply with the new California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) requirements that all horse trainers in the state keep treatment records. This EMR system was officially approved by the CHRB to cover the new regulations. “I was impressed with EMR’s system,” commented Executive Director of the California Horse Racing Board, Scott Chaney. “Equine medical records are digitized and recorded on a mobile and web-based application used by trainers or their vets.”

Dr. Cory Soltau, President of the Arabian Racing Association of California (ARAC), shares the support of the system and understands the importance of record keeping in maintaining animal health and welfare. ARAC is the CHRB recognized breed organization for Arabian race horses in the state of California.

“The Arabian Racing Association of California looks forward to joining many of the other racing associations in the USA endorsing Equine MediRecord,” said Dr. Soltau in a recent interview. “Equine MediRecord offers an easy to use record-keeping system which allows a complete reference of each horses’s treatment and medication to help make those important decisions for the health and safety of our horses.

“The Arabian Racing Association of California enthusiastically endorses Equine MediRecord as a tool which will enhance the integrity of all competitive equine sport.”

The system has proven to reduce time spent on regulatory documentation by up to fifty percent and ensure complete compliance when inspected by regulators. 

“We have been very impressed with the desire and determination to promote transparency and equine welfare in the state of California. Some of our earliest support has come from Arabian racing horsemen and organizations who want to ensure the very best welfare for their horses,” Pierce Dargan said.

Al Harith

Arabian Racing Organization (UK)/Equine Creative Media

Onboard with the Arabian Racing Organization (UK)

EMR partnered with the Arabian Racing Organization (ARO) in the U.K. to make the ARO the first equine industry in Europe and second in the world to mandate electronic medical records be kept by their registered trainers.

All Arabian racehorses in the U.K. were placed on the EMR digital system that automates veterinary compliance to welfare regulation for the 2020 season. Certain restrictions had been previously imposed, for example segregation from the Thoroughbreds in the racecourse stables when competing on the same card and the use of the paddock and saddling areas on some racecourses. These restrictions and others were lifted for the first in decades for coming on to the EMR system. 

Elevated to professional status for the first time in 2020 in the U.K., Arabian trainers have been competing successfully at the highest level globally for many years, in some cases dividing their time between the U.K. in the summer and the Gulf States in the winter.  

For example, when Dubai’s Meydan racecourse commenced racing in 2010, the winner of the opening race was No Risk Al Maury, trained by multiple ARO champion trainer Gillian Duffield, who was based in Newmarket.

Genny Haynes, ARO Commercial & Finance Director commented: “It became evident with the equine influenza outbreak and the BHA’s criteria for nasal swabs when Arabian horses raced on licensed tracks, that we needed to raise our standards of bio-security to a higher level.”

Equine MediRecord has also partnered with the Irish Veterinary Welfare Commission to make Irish Standardbred horses the first in the world to mandate medical records digitized not only for horses in training, but for breeding stock as well. 

Michael Grassick, Sr., the Chief Executive of the Irish Horse Racing Trainers Association is quoted as saying, “With more regulations from the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board regarding medical record books, it is imperative that we keep records up to date. Using Equine MediRecord solves these problems. It gives you added security and peace of mind.”

Looking to the horizon, The company is now putting more efforts into improving the sign-up process and into localization, such as translating the app for the French market. 

Equine MediRecord charges a subscription fee to each stable based on the number of horses each has.

Pierce Dargan at the Maryland Million with his mother, Kyle (left). He was accompanied by both of his parents to Maryland.

Maryland Connections

In October 2019, Maryland Jockey Club invited Pierce Dargan and his family to Maryland for the Maryland Million. EMR sponsored the Equine MediRecords Charity race the week before. It was a 1 mile turf race won by Discreet Sister, trained by Jamie Ness, ridden by Trevor McCarthy and owned by Jagger.

Dargan hopes to present the EMR software to Maryland Jockey Club in the near future.

“We feel our system can play a role in the movement to help ensure that our children will be able to enjoy horse racing the way we have for generations,” Pierce Dargan said.

For more information about Equine MediRecord: https://www.equinemedirecord.com/

Email: info@equinemedirecord.com or Tel: +353 864092584. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. 

The platform features:

General Record Keeping Notes: 

— Training regime

— Horse Locations

— Feeding/nutrition details

— Weight and condition reporting.

Delegate/Collaborate:

— Invite Trainers, Vets and Assistants to fill out and complete records

Real Time Notifications:

— Notifications of treatments and medications added to a horse’s regime. 

Race Planning:

— Advice on when a horse may be able to compete based on health and condition updates

Horse Location:

— Track and update a horse’s location whilst being moved between facilities, whether it be training/yards, spelling farms and veterinary clinics.

Key takeaways:

The platform is supported by automatic back up to the Cloud and updated records can be exported to email within seconds.

The website, like the app platform, is comprehensive and easy to use.

By Maribeth Kalinich and Rachel Humphrey, contributor

All photos courtesy of Pierce Dargan unless otherwise noted.

Contributing Authors

Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

Maribeth Kalinich grew up in a family with a love for horses, a passion for Thoroughbred horse racing and a taste for playing the ponies....

View Maribeth Kalinich, Senior Editor, Graphic Designer

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