Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saratoga: A Happy Place for RaceHorses

Maintaining physical fitness is imperative for a racehorse, so too is exercising the mind, especially in juveniles. Once accustomed to track routines, young horses bounce from stall to track like energetic Little Leaguers running from Mom’s car to the practice field.

However, horses, like kids, will get bored if they do the same thing day-after-day. Science shows mental fatigue takes a toll on performance -- depleting even the most enthusiastic players. A bored horse will begin exhibiting vices from cribbing, weaving, and stall walking to a sour attitude. All work and no play is as tough on our four-legged friends as us.

On the farm, UR horses work 6-days a week, on the 7th they frolic about the pastures from sunrise to dusk, as in today’s video. Training on the farm is a more natural atmosphere for horses than at the racetrack. Lengthy walks to and from gallops, daily turn-out before and after works, and familiarity with other horses are akin to the comfort of home gym.

Other than Fair Hill, most racing facilities don’t have ample space to create paddocks, turn-out, or bridle paths. Rather they are built for efficiency to accommodate 1000’s of horses and people getting on and off the track in about 5 hours on any given morning. That is the hectic pace we strive to prepare our horses to endure; it is a lot the equine mind to handle. Like our kids entering the real world work force -- it is scary, we worry for them, because we love them. The conflict for horse lovers like myself is that we know how much horses need their freedom to be happy and healthy.

In my opinion, the next best place to the farm and Fair Hill, is surely The Oklahoma Training Track in Saratoga.The well-groomed Saratoga ovals provide pristine surfaces to attain the level of fitness necessary for racing, and the refreshing atmosphere rejuvenates the senses.

Training hours, usually between 6AM and 11AM, dictate the protocol trainers must develop to get horses out for work, cooled out, and safely back in the shedrow. Adapting to nearly 23-hours-a-day in a stall is not easy for any freedom-loving animal. Such a life is in visceral denial of their desire to roam the range. Saratoga brings a balance to these opposing forces and even the most super fit equine athletes seem to take a deep breath and truly enjoy the rarified air between Union, East, and Fifth Avenues.

To those on the NYRA circuit, Saratoga offers a reprieve from the logistical demands of functioning at a big city track. It is a mecca, for horses and humans. Every trainer I have interviewed emphatically states, “horses love Saratoga, they blossom, they eat, they train better”. Walking about the grounds, horses can be seen grazing in green spots, sauntering through big pines, and rolling and bucking in little turn-out pens adjacent to their quarters. Nick Zito has been training horses early each spring at the Oklahoma track for more than a dozen years, he told the Saratogian, “we’ve trained Belmont Stakes and Jockey Gold Cup winners here. Now the word’s out. It’s not a secret any more. It’s probably the best training facility in the world.”

Clint and The Wild Girls will soon move from the life they've known for nearly three years on the farm, into their careers as racehorses. They love to run, and I believe they are prepared for the job ahead. Moving to Saratoga will be a big step for them, and the true test of our schooling at the farm.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clint Eastwood & Wild Siren

Clint E. and Wild Siren on the training track. Both progressing well.

Watch Wild Siren's sire WILD DESERT will his way to victory in the 
Classic Queen's Plate in 2005 at Woodbine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Breaking Down Data & Drugs....a Holistic View

The recent article in the NY Times was a long overdue wake-up call to ALL thoroughbred horse industry participants. Thank you Joe Drape et al.

Breakdowns, catastrophic, and career ending injuries, have long gone unreported to the general public unless captured on camera during a major broadcast.

Thankfully, the NYSRWB has responded to this new found public awareness by making previously veiled industry reports readily available.

The Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database, and the Racing and Wagering Board Ruling Database are new resources for owners to investigate trainers and make informed decisions. Had this information been available in the past, I for one, would have selected different trainers to handle my beloved horses.

Over the past month, I have interviewed several trainers. I am abhorred by the number of prominent names who openly flaunt the rules by engaging in the debilitating practice of daily training on bronchodilators, pain-killers, muscle relaxers, and steroid-effect like drugs.

Abetted by profiteering veterinarians, trainers erroneously believe these drugs give them an edge. Sadly, day-to-day training on drugs creates a dependence on DRUGS, the ones that are illegal on race-day!

The problem with the use of training on controlled substances is that they mask the very subtle signs, symptoms, and pain that tell the educated eye it’s time for a change. They wreak havoc with horse’s own cellular intelligence which is designed to strengthen itself. Unnoticed, horses’ train onward only to collapse on race-day when their system hasn’t the integrity to withstand the demands of racing clean. While researching within the NYSRWB database I was surprised by the number of cardiovascular collapses reported; the workload on heart and lungs must be enormous on an animal suffering withdrawal on race-day.

Veterinarians addicted to profit, coupled with trainers addicted to finding an edge, are co-creating a generation of drug-riddled addicted animals. I see this first-hand as retired runners come to my farm for re-homing. Often, they go through weeks of withdrawal and depression while enduring the side-effects of long term drug abuse -- in the name of "therapy".

Shockingly, trainers I have spoken with justify the use of illegal-to-race-on-drugs siting, “that is what the other trainers do”. Unfortunately, I too see veterinarians, who are entrusted to ethically prescribe, instead simply filling orders for trainers. To which I ask, what authority licenses trainers to diagnose and prescribe controlled substances? And yet, the veterinarians who supposedly control the controlled substances, by supposedly writing prescriptions and determining dosages are held to the same malpractice laws as human doctors.

Furthermore, the misuse of drugs like Clenbuterol, is on the rise. Traditionally, a medication prescribed to clear up an inflammatory irritation, it is now being administered en masse for its anabolic steroid like effect. A finding noted and acted upon in California at Los Alamitos.

As trainers and veterinarians fill horses with a continual stream of inappropriately classified “therapeutic” drugs such as clenbuterol, bute, banamine, magnesium sulfate, and name a few, they are setting up horses, and jockeys, for disaster.

It is my belief, that the excessive amounts of controlled substances in use on a daily basis are causal to the rise in breakdowns -- this was alluded to in Dr. Susan Stover’s in-depth report to Congress in 2008.

On race-day, most entrants are given lasix, a diuretic that further insults the equine athlete through dehydration. Now, with comprised bodies suffering drug withdrawal the horse is asked to deliver its biggest most strenuous effort. It is my fear for the safety of all involved, that unless measures are taken to eradicate drugs all together, the lack of them on race-day will lead to even more casualties.

If a horse is not allowed to race on certain substances, why then are they allowed to train on the same? This methodology implodes; each horse an innocent victim.

The problem with racing is not race-day medications, the surface, or the is rather the willingness of certain people to exploit horses at any price.

I have spent nearly everyday of my life in the company of thoroughbreds. I see no harm in racing strong, sound, healthy horses -- there is however, something seriously inhumane about drugging animals to “run through pain” as one trainer put it, and, “because they need to race” as a one veterinarian noted.

It is my hope that NYSRWB will see fit to place a ban on all drugs, all the time, and regularly conduct drug testing on the backstretch in between races. Between now and then, perhaps the Board will revisit the 2009 plan to disclose drug records, a truly effective way to regain the public’s trust. A proposal criticized only by veterinarians, none of which seem to have any difficulty with the same record-keeping when it comes to billing unsuspecting owners.

By Susan Kayne. Horse Lover, Animal Activist, Racehorse Owner.

Related Links:

Drugs banned by NYSRWB, see 4043.2 Restricted use of drugs, medication and other substances.

The Chemical Horse: Drugs in Racing

WinStar Lasix Study

Business of Racing on Lasix

Kentucky Derby Vet Records

Hong Kong & Horse Care

What do you think is an ethical and morally responsible behavior as the use of drugs to train racehorses?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Morning Gallops

Despite wicked high winds this AM the Girls and Clint
put in a solid few miles around the training oval on the farm.
I am pleased with each horse's progress...Susan.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Girls & Clint Galloping This AM

1st set: Speedy (Baal Perazim) & Clint galloping together this AM in the Husdon can see the differences in their way of going...Speedy a sprinting rocket, and Clint a sojourner over the grass....

2nd set: Brownie & Wild Siren, both elegant movers and very easy to ride at any distance, on any surface.

All are NY-Breds, foaled, raised, and trained with love. Each now getting ready to ship to Saratoga when it opens April 15th. Watch for UR Stable in the winner's circle....see them all as babies below!

Wild Siren at 5-months with her mother Appro.

Clint Eastwood Getting Some Tail at 3-weeks.

Brownie with all 4 feet off the ground at just 4-weeks!
Speedy at 5 months on the day she arrived at UR Stable.

Now they are ready to send off to college!