Medicare for horses

24 June 2022 Written by Celia Purdey

Racing Victoria has announced the continuation of its ‘Medicare for horses’ or Diagnostic Imaging Subsidy, which was first trialled as a pilot program from June 2021. It is another way that the racing industry is helping to protect the health and welfare of our racehorses.

The program is aimed at encouraging trainers and owners to use advanced technologies for early detection and intervention for racehorses at potential risk of injury.

Racing Victoria (RV) will pay half of a range of scans, including scintigraphy (bone scanning), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (high field/standing) and computed tomography (CT).

RV will also provide grants of up to $300 for specialist appointments and $200 for a racehorse who requires hospitalisation overnight.

Trainers who claim the scanning subsidy will be able to save up to $1600.

“We’ve had some really positive feedback, and there’s been some particular stories of owners and trainers that would definitely not have been able to afford this type of advanced diagnostic imaging because of the cost, who’ve been able to make use of this technology to diagnose an injury at an early stage in their horse, ” said Grace Forbes,  General Manager, Veterinary Services, RV.

“This is really exciting because it means that our trainers and owners can see the value in detecting injuries early, and that's because it means when they detect an injury at an early stage, they can manage that injury and the horses are out of work for a much shorter time than if the horses sustains a more serious injury and needs to have a much longer break.”

“This is really exciting because it means that our trainers and owners can see the value in detecting injuries early." - Grace Forbes

Trainers have welcomed the subsidy scheme, as it removes the financial hurdles they may have when wanting to use the advanced screening technologies.

Trainer Kylie Vella has used the scheme to help pinpoint lameness and the potential issues it may cause. “Going in and having the bone scans and the MRI’s is just great. You can go on forever not knowing what your issues are and you don’t actually get to the bottom of it. This way, it actually works out cheaper in the long run because even though it's quite an expense at the start, you’re not constantly re-Xraying or scanning to try and find an issue, you go in and have it done and its pinpointed straight away.”

Matt Cumani agrees with Vella and is delighted that the program is continuing. “Where I can, I always talk to other trainers about it and particularly my owners. As soon as we have a horse that has a little issue that we want to know more about, and we can't get to the bottom of it through normal, cheaper tests or clinical assessments, I always propose it as a gold standard approach, and the owners have been very receptive.”

He also sees it as a huge positive for the industry as a whole. “The more that we use it and can come up with clear and concise diagnostics, I think that’s got to help with the long-term health of the industry, and for each individual horse.”