In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Monday, November 11, 2013

Racehorse Soundness and Safety

Abundant daily locomotion of stabled racehorses is essential to develop, enhance, and maintain pulmonary and musculoskeletal soundness. Abundant daily walking and grazing are easy to accomplish at nearly all of the American racing venues. Time seems to be only restraint, taking the time to care for stabled horses as they should be cared for to reduce their current dependence on medication and the resultant untoward side-effects. Something as simple as abundant daily walking to improve racing safety and integrity should not be overlooked. The current practices, both pharmaceutical and husbandry-related, have failed the horses, thus the United States continues to experience unacceptable breakdown rates not experienced or tolerated elsewhere in the world.
Education is the key, education of those caring for the horses and responsible for their durability. Stabled racehorses require miles of daily walking to induce, maintain, and enhance musculoskeletal soundness. The same walking activity that enhances pulmonary health, enhances limb health and integrity. Lasix has allowed trainers to lock their horses down most of the day, resulting in limb fragility, which is expressed as breakdowns at the race track. The long term-solution lies not so much in regulation as education.
Please note, that when people are hospitalized and bedridden, some of earliest medical personnel to attend them are respiratory therapists. The respiratory therapists, understanding how locomotion is essential for respiratory function, employ a variety of lung exercises and pulmonary assessments to make sure the pulmonary health of the of the hospitalized patients is maintained. Racehorses are for all practical pulmonary purposes hospitalized. Locomotion and movement are restricted and deprived by stabling. Specific pulmonary conditioning efforts are necessary to enhance and maintain pulmonary health and resilience of all stabled performance horses. For a horse, to move is to breath deeply and healthily, and to breath is to move. When stabling is required, natural must be-recreated in the stable, or the horse will suffer deterioration of soundness of both wind and limb.
Pulmonary health is heavily dependent upon abundant daily locomotion. Please appreciate that America's legalized Lasix allows pulmonary health to be compromised, the pharmaceutical scrim responsible for overall racehorse fragility. Pre-race Lasix allows trainers to race horses deprived of appropriate pulmonary conditioning. Restricted locomotion results in lung (and limb) deterioration, which is the primary basis for all of the breakdown and safety issues plaguing the sport. Lasix facilitates the substandard horsemanship that is responsible for much of the contemporary racehorse fragility. Day before injections of NSAIDs likewise perpetuate vulnerability to catastrophic injuries. Pulmonary health is connected to limb health. To allow deterioration of one system is to allow deterioration of the other. Lasix facilitates the racing of horses with compromised lungs. When the lungs are allowed to deteriorate by restricted locomotion, the limbs deteriorate likewise. Bone density and joint integrity are dependent on miles of daily movement, as near-constant movement is the essential nature of horses. Digestion, metabolism, hoof health and durability are all dependent on abundant daily locomotion.
Education can improve the health and welfare of horses.
The key to equine welfare lies in equine behavior education, which delivers an understanding and appreciation of pulmonary and limb health and soundness, and what is required to assure soundness of wind and limb. The same conditioning protocols that ensure pulmonary health and resistance to EIPH are the same protocols that enhance soundness of limb. The solution to improve racing health, soundness, safety, and integrity are relatively simple, and are based on the science of equine behavior, and the need for horses to receive abundant daily locomotion in addition to their race-conditioning regimens.

Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He helps refine horse and dog training methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses and dogs. Applied veterinary behavior enhances optimum health, performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity in animal athletes. Natural approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in content, cooperative horses. DrSid provides equine behavior consultations to help recreate the needs and preferences of horses in training and competition.
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