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 naquasone...to 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 purse...it 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?


Anonymous said...

Horses love to run. Humans need to stay out of the way. No medications. Ellen, Ocala

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being honest about what what we all know is happening. Horses are breakig down in greater numbers from being run when they are not sound. Using drugs for training means that horses are in pain and unsound otherwise why gieve them drugs to train? Pure greed.

Unbridled Racing said...


Thank you for taking the time to comment. I can attest too -- Horses totally love to run and challenge one another. Having bred and raised many they truly are born to run. From the time they can stand they are fleet-footed. It saddens me to see healthy horses depleted through a continous cylce of drugs at the track. I hope through this blog and collaboration with others that share our values we can be a voice for horses, the very horses that have no choice when injected but to stand and take it.

Keep your voice strong for our four-legged friends!

With appreciation, Susan Kayne

LA Pomeroy said...

Full disclosure.
Complete transparency.
Training in sync w/ equine maturity i.e. abolishing 2 yr old racing and purses that reward the industry for pushing too-young horses too-quickly.
Breeding licenses and sizable fees to go back to support the industry that limits the number of foals produced and thus begins to stem the tide of unwanted TBs retired at obscenely early ages.
Once again, we approach Triple Crown season in anticipation that racing will again be its own worst enemy. Until we begin to celebrate the drug-free 7 yr old racehorse, our problems remain a conundrum.