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Fixing The North American Race Horse Drug Problems
 By Winniefield Park   •   12th Jun 2014   •   1,986 views   •   1 comments
Fixing The North American Race Horse Drug Problems

While some people would deny that the use of drugs in North American racehorses is a problem or is an unfortunate necessity, others would argue too many drugs are used too often to address problems that may not exist, or on the off chance they will enhance a horseís performance while still being on the right side of Ďlegalí. There seems to be a lot of finger-pointing going on in the North American race world, but there may be a solution. Oddly enough, the racing world may want to take a look at a country that otherwise has some of the poorest and most dated animal welfare standards among developed nations.

One of the most commonly administered drugs in North America, known as Lasix (the diuretic furosemide) is used to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. In North America, it is routinely given to horses before a race, and within limits, itís perfectly legal to do so. In Hong Kong (and several other countries), horses donít run with Lasix. In Hong Kong, if a horse proves to be a severe bleeder, it is first suspended for three months, and if it happens a second time, the horse is banned from racing. Race horses in Hong Kong also warm-up before a race, something almost unheard of in North America. The warm-up allows the horseís natural bodily responses to adjust to the extra demands of a fast start and hard run.

Another difference, beyond warming up horses before a race are the strict drug policies in place. Hong Kong has one of the lowest breakdown records in the racing world. And the way medications are handled may be part of the reason. Any drug that a horse receives is done so through an on-track pharmacy. That way, the treatment of injuries and illness are recorded, and any possible use of a drug for performance enhancement is eliminated. Horses would still receive emergency treatment, but the routine administering of drugs as a preventative would be stopped. As a result in the past five years, Hong Kong has had only one sudden death in 5,692 starters whereas the American fatality rate is 2.14 per 1,000.

Critics of the Hong Kong system argue, however, that because there is no actual breeding industry in Hong Kong, only the best horses are imported. The horses chosen are carefully vetted, mature, healthy and sound. There are few races for two-year-olds in Hong Kong. These factors, they maintain, are more likely to account for the decrease in breakdowns and the decreased need for drugs. However, this argument against the effectiveness of the on-track pharmacy, may also be seen as an argument for racing mature horses - another bone of contention within the racing industry.

The North American race industry has a poor image, reflected by the decline in the race-going public, who are becoming increasingly aware of the drug and breakdown problems. There are fewer foals being produced, smaller purses and fewer races being run. Changes may have to be made to ensure its future.

Initiating a similar system to the one in Hong Kong, means of course, that all horses that race must be stabled at the track, so that the access to any drugs is controlled. If this isnít possible, then rules must be in place to handle any horses kept away from the track before races as is done in Australia and many European countries. Is this do-able in North America? Of course, but it requires the cooperation of owners, trainers and veterinarians, many of whom may feel they stand to lose if the current system changes to one that increases their responsibility to be accountable.

What do you think? Does racing have an image problem? Or a drug problem? Is there a solution?
Horse News More PB Articles About:  Doping,
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Winniefield Park
Idle Hour Stock Farm  
Also interesting is the work of Rick Dutrow, who trained Big Brown. Although he was caught using many overages, mostly of theraputic drugs, not a single charge of his ever broke down.
  Jun 20, 2014  •  2,307 views
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