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.
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?