Pre-Race Vet Exams

November 15, 2019

I received a few emails about what all is involved in a Pre-Race Veterinary exam. That’s a great question. It’s basically the same at most tracks. 

The veterinarian comes to the barn on the morning of the race and picks up the horses upper lip and checks his/her tattoo. All race horses are tattooed so you get the correct horse. Remember, horses can really look alike down to their markings, the tattoo is what they go by. Then the horse is taken out of the stall.  The veterinarian looks to see if anything looks out of order.  From there he flexes and palpates the horse’s legs. If everything seems in order he will have the groom jog the horse. The horse will jog away from him and then turn around and jog towards him. If his gait is good both directions, the horse passes the morning exam. 

However, that’s not the last time the horse will be observed for soundness. When they walk in the paddock before they saddle up, the veterinarian in the paddock watches every horse. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he will go over him again and ask him to jog in the paddock. Things can happen from the morning check to when they race. At that point he decides whether or not to scratch or let the horse run. 

The last time they are checked for soundness is at the gate where the veterinarian is again watching. The veterinarian at the starting gate watches them warm up. If a jockey comes to the gate before the race and expresses concern, the veterinarian will asked the jock to jog him. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he calls the stewards and they scratch the horse. Let me go a step further, if the veterinarian feels the horse is ok and the jock doesn’t want to ride him, they get another jockey. 
After the race is over the vet that was in the paddock watches the horses pull up. If they come back sore they are put on the veterinarian’s list. They can not run until they are re-examined, breeze in front of him and blood is drawn. At that point when the blood is tested and comes back good you can enter. Remember the same thing is going to take place race day. 

With modern technology, Ipads and cameras these horses are documented. The track and the veterinarians do everything possible to avoid accidents.

I completely understand why you would asked this question. I hope it helps you understand that we do everything we can to make sure they are racing sound. 

See you at the races.  

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

RIP JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture...

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