February 2017


Events like the Queens Plate and the Sun Met usually illustrates the excitement of the Sport of Horseracing and it’s connection.  However what was more evident to me was the passion, the tireless dedication and the work that is undertaken by the various teams of people involved in the sport of horseracing. It must not be overlooked.

There are so many unsung heroes of the horse racing community who need to be recognised and acknowledged for the role that they play in making the sport exciting and extraordinary.  I meet so many people who love what they do, especially within the NHA. Many of the staff literally grew up in the sport. They have an indelible link, a strong passion, a deep commitment and unparalled dedication to the horses and horseracing.

It is not only limited to the NHA staff but we see the dedication evident in Owners, Trainers etc. especially within the Life Colour Holders (those who have renewed their colours for 30 consecutive years).  Behind every great horse is a passionate and dedicated group of people, like the Owners, Trainers, Jockeys, animal welfare personnel, the NHA, etc.  The price of success is hardwork, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether you win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. I’m of the humble opinion that if you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit, you’ll be a winner!!

Article by:  Lyndon Barends – NHA Managing Director

The National Horseracing Authority confirms that it has completed its Internal Inquiry into the presence of cobalt in specimens which were taken from certain racehorses. The background and findings can be found below:

The National Horseracing Authority confirmed that three urine specimens had been found to be in excess of the international threshold for cobalt in urine specimens. The NHA has conducted a thorough investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding each of these matters.  The NHA has considered the evidence presented by the relevant trainers, senior veterinary surgeons and other relevant parties and has established that:

  • Vitamin B12 supplements, which can be obtained without veterinary prescription, have in all probability inadvertently led to these specimens exceeding the threshold for cobalt,
  • the notices and information regarding cobalt and vitamin B12 were inconsistently disseminated and cobalt related documentation had not been correctly reflected; and,
  • there was still uncertainty amongst both trainers and veterinarians as to when to administer B12 vitamin supplements without it leading to a specimen taken from a horse exceeding the threshold for cobalt.

After consideration of all relevant factors including prior to these findings, the NHA decided in the interests of fairness and justice, not to prosecute these as “prohibited substance” matters and therefore accordingly did not charge any of the persons concerned.  However, the NHA decided to conduct a full internal Inquiry which involved all parties relevant to the
proceedings.  The NHA further decided that the findings, in so far as it may be of relevance to the racing public, will be published.  During that period, the NHA had already embarked on a roadshow involving nationwide workshops which fully appraised trainers and veterinarians of the implications of raceday medications, detection times and the use of B12 vitamins, the cobalt related repercussions and other supplements, as well as the
NHA Rules pertaining hereto.


Pursuant to the above, the findings of the Internal Inquiry are as follows:

  • Trials were conducted where racehorses were fed feeds with a 1mg/kg cobalt content (compared to a normal horse feed content of 0.1mg/kg). The impact of these high cobalt feeds on basal cobalt urine level were investigated.
  • While horses which are not fed a cobalt fortified feed have a typical urine cobalt concentration of 4 ng/ml, these trials showed that with fortified feeds (1 mg/kg) the horses presented urine cobalt levels of about 20 ng/ml. Other cobalt fortified feeds
  • with a lower dose of about 0.4 mg/kg cobalt content resulted in urine cobalt level in horses of about 10 ng/ml. It must be noted that these basal levels are significantly below the 100 ng/ml urine international threshold for cobalt prosecution.
  • It is clear that these abovementioned fortified feeds present the horse with more cobalt (6 mg) than is required (1mg daily), when fed 6kg of such feed a day. With the use of such feed there is no need to further supplement cobalt in the horse.
  • These trials also showed that the treatment of a horse with the recommended dose of the preparation “Red Cell” does not elevate urinary cobalt markedly and also not for a significant period of time.
  • Where the Trainer wishes to administer Vitamin B12 (including high dose forte preparation) or other products containing cobalt, the NHA guidance is available on its website remains as before, that is:

 “It is recommended thatsupplemental cobalt from any source, including registered cobalt containing supplements and vitamin B12 (cobalamin), not be administered to the horse within at least two full days prior to race day.”

This is to ensure that the horse presents a urine cobalt level significantly less than the international threshold of 100 ng/ml. As a result of the above findings, the NHA will recommence with its testing for and prosecution of Trainers who present horses to race with levels of urinary cobalt which exceeds the international threshold of 100 ng/ml.  The NHA is mindful of its mission to maintain the integrity of the sport of horseracing and will continue to police substance abuse with its usual vigour and determination to ensure a level playing field for all.

Article by: Dr Schalk de Kock - NHA Laboratory

What should you do as a Trainer or Owner when retiring and rehoming a horse?: 

  • Complete and submit the retirement form with relevant addresses and contact details.
  • Have your veterinarian do a Second Career Assessment and submit the forms (form available on our website).
  • Should an owner not feel comfortable making a decision, the Horse Care Units can evaluate the horse further and make whatever decision is in the best interests of the horse.

The take-home message is this:

  • It is essential that owners do not see racehorses as commodities, but as an animal vital to the horseracing industry and a responsibility no different to having pets.
  • This rule is to ensure a professional opinion is heard before making decisions on a horse’s future.
  • A Horse Care Unit can assist you in making a decision.
  • Owners should make every effort to ensure that their horses are treated sympathetically and humanely when they leave racing.
  • The owner is under no obligation to sell or dispose of a horse. They are entitled to retain ownership and responsibility for the horse’s care.
  • All horses are identified permanently by means of microchip and so are easily andm permanently identifiable.
  • Please note that a horse’s passport must stay with it for the rest of its natural life. It is only necessary to return the passport to the NHA in the event of the death of the horse.

There are numerous Horse Care Units that are willing to assist with the rehoming of retired racehorses.  There will usually be a fee involved, which can be discussed with each of the Units. The contact details are as follows:

  • Highveld Horse Care Unit – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (081 573 4098)
  • Coastal Horse Care Unit – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (031 782 1434)
  • Eastern Cape Horse Care Unit - Megan Hope – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (072 357 2505)

As recently as October 2016, we have assisted horse care units in dealing with cases where retired racehorses’ care was wanting.  This serves as a reminder that work needs to be done in this regard and highlights the need for such a rule.

Please contact one of the NHA veterinarians should there be any other queries in this regard and they shall advise you on how best to proceed. There is also information available on our website at www.nhra.co.za

Article by: Dr Dale Wheeler