Test barn a part of harness racing that few ever see

    Veterinarian Karin Jensen and Indiana Horse Racing Commission coordinator summer intern Gabrielle Nelson key figures in the test barn at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

    Posted on July 22, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.

    GOSHEN — There's something about horse racing that gets in the blood of those involved.

    Bloodlines are also important for the horses, in this case, standardbreds. The objective is to breed the right stallion to the right mare to produce the best pacer or trotter.

    Blood is also a key component for equine veterinarian like Karin Jensen and Indiana Horse Racing Commission fair coordinator summer intern Gabrielle Nelson. Both were plying their trade Tuesday, July 22, at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

    Jensen, a mother of five from New Paris, was drawing the blood from the winners.

    Nelson, a Carmel resident entering her senior year at Purdue University, was gathering those samples for preparation at Hoosier Park in Anderson and shipping to a laboratory in Kentucky.

    Jensen said winners are tested because state funds are used to pay the winners. The total purses for the three days at the 2014 Elkhart County Fair amounted to $122,600, according to track announcer Steve Cross.

    "All of these horses have to adhere to the same strict standards as the horses that race at (pari-mutuel facilities) Hoosier Park (in Anderson) and Indiana Downs (in Shelbyville)."

    Nelson gathered the blood and urine samples and sealed, labeled and documented each of them to match up with the right horse.

    "We're testing for anything that would enhance the performance of the horse (such as pain killers, tranquilizers or steroids)," says Nelson, who follows the fair circuit from May through the finals at the Indiana State Fair in August.

    Nelson took the samples to Hoosier Park to spin the samples and ship them for lab testing. A positive test means an owner will be punished and prize money will be stripped.

    "We haven't had any issues this summer, which is nice," says Nelson, who did have a vehicle issue in Anderson which caused Tuesday's post time to be moved back an hour to noon.

    On a non-race day, Jensen makes farm calls to give horses vaccinations, check for lameness or soreness and during breeding season (February through June), artificially-inseminate.

    Jensen, wife of dairy cattle vet Bernie Senn, says horses have a gestation period of 11 months and most foal in the spring and typically breed 10 to 30 days later.

    The biggest difference between a vet's work for (non-racing) horses and cows and pigs is that the latter two are food animals that become part of the food chain.

    "You don't want antibiotic residues," says Jensen. "You have to be very careful in what you treat them with because they end up in the food chain.

    "With horses, you don't have to watch that as much, especially if you're talking about 4-H horses. With race horses, you do have the residue problem."

    Racing may be over at the fair for this year, but Jensen and her children — ages 7 to 16 — are camping at the fairgrounds and participating in the 4-H agriculture program.

    Two girls were showing horses Tuesday, just paces from the test barn where their mother was drawing blood.

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