In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission RaceDay Medication Transcript

Dr Gustafson's testimony begins on Page 169, Arthur Hancock's testimony begins on page 220, Bill Casner's begins on 137.

Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition. He advises owners and trainers how to manage bleeding without drugs.

MR. FARMER: Dr. Gustafson with the Humane Society of the United States.
DR. GUSTAFSON: Thank you commissioners for having this hearing to address this important issue.
My name is Sid Gustafson. A brief biography for those of you who would like to know. In the '60s, I started catching urine in Montana. I was catching urine in 1968 when Dancer's Image number was taken down. And so I put a lot of thought into raceday medication through the years.
I represent the Humane Society of the United States today as well as the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. I teach veterinary behavior at the University of Guelph and, in addition, I am a regulatory veterinarian in 4 states; California, New York, Montana, and Washington.
So I have been around as both an attending and regulatory veterinarian.
We do not oppose horse racing. But we do oppose race day medication. Hearing the information that exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage is present in nearly 100 percent of the horses, some people would conclude that that is somewhat of a normal occurrence rather than an abnormal pathology.
However, certain degrees of it can be quite problematic. And I feel that part of this is due to exceeding the adaptability of the racehorse. So in my talk, I am going to present some solutions other than medication to exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage.
Apparently all of these other jurisdictions in Hong Kong and Europe and places they don't use race day medication went through this process. And I assume the process they went to -- the collusions they came to will somewhat reflect what happens here. But I guess that remains to be seen.
To appreciate the nature of the thoroughbred, I would like to briefly review the evolution of the horse and the domestication process. Of all of the human equine pursuits, horse racing is perhaps the most natural equine pursuit of all. More natural, for example, than polo or stadium jumping or cutting. Horses have evolved for 60 million years to run at speed in close company. Running at speed in close company is the horse's long evolved group survival mechanism.
This is the nature which is nurtured in thoroughbred lines and thoroughbred development and training.
Racing comes natural to a horse.
To appreciate how horses develop the athletic endurance to run at speed together and connected in close company, veterinary behaviorists observe horses in natural settings to assess how horses naturally prepare themselves to race. We study horses prepare younger horses to develop strong limbs and strong lungs and musculoskeletal systems to achieve success evading prey.
Knowledge of the horse's nature is abundantly applied here in Kentucky. Farm after farm I drove through coming here had large pastures where bands of mares and foals and later bands of cohorts run and play and learn to travel closely together at speed. They learn to communicate together, change leads together and move in a safe and synchronous organized fashion while running in large circles around the pasture.
It is this essential experience with other horses in a heard that a growing thoroughbred gains the confident to run by and through horses later in life in a race. The herd conditions growing horses. Running with the herd facilitates the physical development of the lungs and musculoskeletal system.
The reproduction and recreation of these natural behaviors are essential for the healthy, mental, and physical development of the thoroughbred as is evident everywhere here in the Bluegrass. In order to later prevail in a horse race, growing thoroughbreds need to be conditioned to develop the ability, coordination, stamina, pulmonary capacity, and strength, confidence and experience needed to endure training and racing.
It is this knowledge that elucidates how race day Lasix impoverishes the welfare of horses. To
appreciate the principles of equine behavior is to understand what is required to maintain pulmonary health in horses confined to stalls being conditioned to race.
The solution to managing exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage is appropriate breeding development, horsemanship, training, and husbandry. The care that establishes and enhances pulmonary health and endurance in horses is the same care that enriches stabled horse's lives. It is the same care that keeps racehorses' musculoskeletal systems sound. It is the care that keeps horses on their feet during races.
One point is clear about all of this data. The data from non-Lasix, non-race day medication jurisdictions indicates to me, at least, that clean running horses suffer significantly fewer breakdowns than horses running on Lasix in America.
Over the last 2 years, if I am reading the data from Encompass correctly, we watched 2 horses break down for every 1,000 starts. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which has been discussed here quite a bit, has set an example of clean and racing without race day medication. And their data indicates that they have less than 1 breakdown for every 2000 starts.
So on that basis, we find the use of Lasix and race day medication to be a welfare issue. Horses with healthy lungs are content and
fulfilled horses whose lives their caretakers adequately, if not extensively, enrich. Lung health is supported by limb health. Appropriate husbandry and training maintains and establishes the soundness of both wind and limb.
Breeding and running are biologically intertwined on the racetrack, a breath per stride. To stride correctly is to breathe correctly. To breathe correctly is to breathe soundly and to race sound.
Horses who are bred, socialized, and developed properly from birth and who train while living enriched stable lives are seldom likely to experience performance-impairing equine induced pulmonary hemorrhage -- exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage while racing. They are more apt to stay sound.
Humane my friends. appropriate
care of the horse prevents bleeding, Pulmonary health is reflective of
husbandry, breeding, training, nutrition, and the abundant provisions of forage, friends, and perhaps most importantly locomotion.
Lasix perpetuates substandard horsemanship, artificially suppressing the untoward result, which is bleeding, to impair performance of inadequate preparation of the thoroughbred.
Performance medication on race day leads to fragility. Rather than alleviate medical conditions, the data from several jurisdictions and studies indicates that racing medications administered on race day exceed racehorse adaptability and perpetuate fragility in race horses. Fragility is dangerous for both horses and riders.
Genetics play a role in pulmonary health and physical durability. Lasix perpetuates genetic weakness by allowing ailing horses to prevail and sow their seeds of pharmaceutical dependence.
Lasix manages a wide variety of unsoundnesses, as do the cortisone and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Running sore can cause horses to bleed. Anti-inflammatory drugs aggravate coagulation processes.
Please appropriate that horses running on pharmaceutical scrims are 4 times more likely to
break down than horses running free of race day medication.
Pulmonary health is dependent on appropriate breeding and proper development for the vigor, durability, and endurance thoroughbred racing demands.
Drugs are not the solution. Competent horsemanship is the solution.
Genetic dosage, behavioral and physical development, socialization, training, and husbandry are the keys to racehorse soundness, stamina, and durability.
Horses evolved as social grazers of the plains, group survivalists moving and grazing together much of the time. Horses require near constant forage, friends, and locomotion to maintain health of wind and limb. Racehorses are no exception. The last place a horse evolved to live is in a stall alone. The solution to manage bleeding in racehorses is to develop, teach, train, and care for horses in a horse-sensitive fashion.
Training and husbandry need to be a good deal for horses in order for horses to maintain healthy partnerships with people. Pulmonary health is
reflective of overall health and soundness in horses.

order to maintain pulmonary health, natural conditions need to be recreated in the stable. 
Horses prefer to graze together and move nearly constantly. This constant grazing and moving are essential for joint and bone health, hoof health, metabolic health, and pulmonary health. In order for lungs to stay healthy, horses need movement, often more movement than trainers provide.
Walking enhances and maintains horse health. Stabled horses need a lot more walking than most are currently afforded. Abundant on track and on track locomotion is necessary to condition a horse's lungs. Lungs deteriorate when movement is restricted. Horse breath all day long and walking is part of the way that assists their health.
Walking and movement enhance breathing and lung health. Development and conditioning of pulmonary health throughout growth and while training are the answers to prevent and manage bleeding as they have always been.
To enhance pulmonary health is to enhance the horse's entire life and outlook. Not only do
properly stabled and trained horses' lungs hold bleeding in abeyance, they hold sway and win.
Pulmonary health and bleeding prevention are dependent on smooth running and biomechanically sound locomotions.
Horse evolved in the open spaces of the northern hemisphere and require the cleanest, purest air to thrive and develop health lungs and hearts. Stable air needs to be constantly refreshed to maintain pulmonary health. Ventilation is essential and enclosed structures are often inappropriate. Barn design must be addressed to maintain pulmonary health. Bedding is critical. Clear straw provides the moves
movement by simulating Horses stalled on about with their heads
grazing. straw are noted to move down nibbling and exploring
for hours, recreating natural, keeping their lungs healthy with movement.
Their respiratory tracts drained by all the head-down nibbling and grazing. Horses need near constant movement to maintain optimum lung health. Long standing horses' lungs deteriorate quickly. Not only does near constant movement maintain and enhance pulmonary health, abundant locomotion maintains metabolic health, joint and bone health, hoof health and digestive health.
To enhance lung health, is to enhance the overall health and soundness of the horse.
Racing has proven to be safer in Lasix-free and race day medication free jurisdictions where the drug crutch is not allowed.
Drugs are not allowed to replace appropriate care and training in Hong Kong and Europe. And race day drugs should not be allowed in America.
The stabled race horses has to be carefully and humanely cared for and nourished, both physically and behaviorally to win and stay healthy. Lasix has weekend the breed, and weakened the American horse racing game considerably as the numbers across the board reveal.
The horse has brought us all here today. If racing is to flourish as a sport in Kentucky and subsequently in the rest of the world, horse racing must come clean of drugs and replace its race day medication attitudes with appropriate horse sensitive breeding, development, horsemanship, behavior, training, and husbandry programs.

To honorably share this great Commonwealth with our friend the horse, we must learn to use the resources of the land and people to nurture Kentucky horses and rid the heart of the sport of its dependence on race day drugs.
Respectfully submitted. MR. FARMER: Thank you very much, doctor. Any questions from the panel? Commissioners?
Thank you very much. DR. GUSTAFSON: Thank you.


Anonymous said...

All horses bleed to some extent when pressed to exertion. That said, the Flair Equine Nasal Strip is just as effective as lasix/salix at preventing and controlling bleeding at racing speeds. The science backs it up -- lots and lots of science.

Why is it that this inexpensive, drug-free product is not a very large part of this conversation? No drugs, proven prevention, everyone keeps working, horses keep running, none of the side-effects of lasix/salix AND horses can run more often without having to wait weeks for electrolytes and fluids balances to be restored.

Sid Gustafson DVM said...

Thank you anonymous. Nasal strips may be part of the drug-free management of EIPH, and many jurisdictions allow their use, while others do not. The prevention is much more complicated than nasal strip use. Locomotion enhances lung health, and horses' lungs need to be conditioned daily by a variety of diverse and creative exercises. Walking is essential to maintain lung health. Horses whose lungs are developed from birth, and whose pulmonary health are enhanced by abundant locomotion, develop hale, healthy lungs that are able to withstand the rigors of racing. Stalling deteriorates lung health, and movement has to be created for stalled horses to maintain pulmonary health. Regards, Sid Gustafson DVM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding Dr. Sid. Currently, only one racing jurisdiction in the US does not allow Nasal Strip use -- NY. All others do. The strips are widely used in overseas jurisdictions that Do Not Allow Lasix/Salix use.

I agree that optimal health and conditioning is an absolute necessity for any bleeding and non-bleeding equine athlete. However, in terms of an American racing world that is Lasix-free, the nasal strip offers the ONLY viable alternative that is scientifically proven to work as well as lasix/salix in controlling and reducing EIPH/bleeding at racing effort, does not leach calcium from the bones, does not deplete electrolytes and fluids from the system, improves the horses locomotor breathing by increasing the airflow, is available from many veterinarians and tack stores, as well as on-line all over the world, needs no needles, and makes the horse more comfortable as an obligate nasal breather. Thanks again :)

Sid Gustafson DVM said...

Thank you for reiterating the negative consequences of Lasix use. Certainly, there are no consequences with the Nasal Strip that could match the detrimental side effects of raceday Lasix, it seems.
I represent the health and welfare of racehorses, and any conversations regarding the use of ancillary devices to enhance racehorse health are encouraged here, including the use of nasal strips. Alternatives to drugs are always encouraged to manage racehorse health, prosperity and performance.
Veterinary behaviorists and horses alike are always suspect of devices and artificial scrims of all types, including tongue ties. Tongue ties perhaps need to be part of the EIPH conversation, as well, it seems.
Certainly, nasal strips have proven valuable for many horses, as have tongue ties, and scientific research and analysis continues to document the benefits and advantages, as well as the disadvantages, as science should. I concur that many horses have benefitted from their use, but that refinement of nasal strip design, application, and appropriate use should continue for the benefit of racehorses.
Most devices require proper training and use. Please educate everyone regarding nasal strips.
Could you please share the guidelines for nasal strip use with us to benefit racehorses?
Which horses are good candidates for nasal strip use?
How is it determined if a specific horse with a specific problem will benefit from the use of your nasal strip?
What are the disadvantages of nasal strip use?
Does long term recurrent use of nasal strips alter any structures or respiratory functions?
How is a horse appropriately prepared for nasal strip use?

How do you recommend the strip be appropriately applied, when, exactly where anatomically, and for how long?
What is the nasal strip's documented mechanism or mechanisms of action?
What about nasal strips for working and exercising?

New York felt nasal strips and Cornell Collars offered unfair advantage, and consider nasal strips a performance enhancing device, as well as a medication delivery system, much like a Fentanyl patch can deliver medications. The argument was also made that the strips weakened the normal nasal physiology over time.
Some felt rather than selecting which horses benefit from nasal strips, nasal strips would be used indiscriminately on the entire population, much as Lasix is, which brings use to the question, do nasal strips benefit all horses?
Are there horses who cannot effectively compete in New York due to their nasal strip ban?
Hopefully, others will share their experience in managing EIPH with nasal strips, and offer helpful advise regarding the use of nasal strips.
We are all here to manage racehorse health without the use of raceday drugs. Many thanks for stepping forward with your contributions and solutions. Feel free to identify yourself and your background for our readers.
Regards, DrSid

Dr Gustafson's novels, books, and stories