In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fundamentals of Racehorse Health: Enhancing the Soundness of Wind and Limb

Horses evolved as social grazers of the plains, group survivalists moving and grazing together most all of the time day and night. During their 60-million-year evolution, horses came to depend upon near-constant movement to maintain health and vigor of wind and limb. 
The horse's long-evolved nature of the need for constant movement follows horses into the stable to this day. 

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 of breakdowns and sudden death. 
Something as seminal and simple as abundant daily walking to improve racing safety and integrity cannot be overlooked and ignored any longer. Horses are born to walk, and walk the must to maintain vigor and health. 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 and limb health are heavily dependent upon abundant daily locomotion. America's legalized pre-race 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 this 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.

The solution to manage EIPH is not pre-race intravenous drugs, the solution is to breed, develop, condition, stable, train and exercise horses in a horse-sensitive fashion that provides abundant lifetime locomotion to sustain and enhance the respiratory resilience necessary to race. Pulmonary health is reflective of overall health and soundness in horses. The daily locomotion that enhances pulmonary health concomitantly enhances soundness of limb.

In order to sustain pulmonary and musculoskeletal health, natural conditions need to be re-created in the stable. Constant foraging, grazing, socializing and movement maintain and develop joint and bone health, hoof health, metabolic health and pulmonary health, and, of course, behavioural health. In order for lungs and legs to stay healthy, horses need movement, more movement than American trainers currently provide their population of stabled horses. 

Movement is what is most often missing in a racehorse’s stabled life. To move is to breathe for a horse. Moving and breathing are intertwined physiologically, as are movement and limb integrity. Trainers must facilitate more daily walking and lung and limb development exercises for their stabled horses. Movement, grazing, and socialization enhance equine welfare while conditioning healthy durable lungs. Pulmonary resilience and health are dependent on miles of daily walking. Horsemanship and appropriate husbandry are the appropriate solutions to manage pulmonary health, not pre-race medication.

Limb soundness, pulmonary health, endurance, and resistance to EIPH are dependent on near constant movement and walking in addition to the daily conditioning routines. To keep lungs healthy and limbs sound, American trainers have to better care for their horses, much as the international trainers are required to do who are not allowed to utilize the pharmaceutical scrim Lasix.
 Where Lasix is not utilized racing is safer, the reason being that horses are required to be better cared for where pharmaceutical racing scrims are forbidden.

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