The History of Drugs in America

So, you’ve had it with drugs and wish racing was like it used to be – just hay, oats, and water. Well, we hate to disillusion anyone, but America was never the way it used to be.

From its very beginning, racing in America has been plagued by drugs, most of them a great deal more potent than the ones that have received all the headlines the past several years.

All the inconsistencies in drug policy that we’re experiencing now are nothing new to the sport. With race-day medication rules about to go through a major change, it is a good time to go back and look at its roots.

The innocence of the 1960s was rudely disrupted in 1968, about the same time America was experiencing its own drug renaissance. We can still see the large, bold-faced headlines in a major New York tabloid – “Derby Winner Drugged.”

That was the day a relatively unknown analgesic called phenylbutazone, marketed under the name Butazolidan, entered the racing vernacular and shook up the entire sport. It also would become the first of many inconsistencies when dealing with medication.

On May 4, 1968, Dancer’s Image finished first in the Kentucky Derby, defeating Calumet Farm’s Forward Pass. Two days later, chemist Kenneth Smith reported to Churchill Downs stewards that the post-race urine sample taken from the winner had come up positive for Butazolidan.

On May 7, Churchill Downs officials announced the findings, and following three days of hearings, Dancer’s Image was disqualified, and the redistribution of the purse money was ordered. The colt’s owner, Peter Fuller, appealed the ruling in late 1968, but it was upheld by the Kentucky State Racing Commission. Fuller then appealed to Franklin Circuit Court, and Judge Henry Meigs ruled in Fuller’s favor, holding that there was no substantial evidence to prove the presence of Butazolidan.

The Kentucky Racing Commission, under pressure from Calumet owner Mrs. Eugene Markey, appealed the decision to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, who ruled in favor of the commission in April, 1972. In June of that year, after being refused a petition for a rehearing, Fuller reluctantly gave up his appeal to have the purse money reinstated. One year later, Fuller lost his final battle when the court denied his appeal to have Dancer’s Image recognized at the official winner of the Derby.

After five years of court battles and $250,000 in legal fees, Fuller finally gave up the fight. Less than a year later, in March, 1974, the Kentucky Racing Commission legalized Butazolidan.

By April, 1975, Butazolidan, which was first synthesized in a Swiss laboratory in 1946 and eventually produced by the Jensen-Salsbery Laboratories in Kansas City in 1957, and the diuretic, furosemide (known by its trade name Lasix) were legal in 12 states. On April 14 of 1975, the Eastern edition of the Daily Racing Form began listing the names of all horses at Gulfstream Park who were racing on “Bute” and Lasix. A few days later, Keystone and Pimlico were added when those drugs became legal in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The first state to actually allow the controlled use of medication was California. In Oct. 1970, with Butazolidan legal only in Nebraska and Colorado, a three-man board adopted a measure that permitted the use of Bute up to, but not including the day on which a horse was to race, specifying that the use must be approved by the state veterinarian and also must be shown on the required daily veterinarian’s list.

As the use of Bute and Lasix became more prominent, statistical reports regarding size of fields, breakdowns, and form reversals increased, but proved inconclusive. Three major reports by the Veterinary-Chemist Advisory Committee to the racing organization NASRC (National Association of State Racing Commissioners) and the California and Colorado racing boards all came to the conclusion that a controlled medication program does not affect the normal breakdown rate of horses. In 1976, the California board received the approval of the American Humane Society.

But that didn’t stop the outcries from the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which claimed that Butazolidan was a masking agent for prohibited medications; a claim that would also apply to Lasix.

Bute and Lasix also took the blame for an increase in breakdowns. Veteran jockey Herb Hinojosa was quoted in the Horseman’s Journal of June, 1978 as saying, “The horses are taking a dive. They evidently have no feeling when they break down. Right now the important thing seems to be filling the races and not ask questions.”

Nick Jemas, managing director of the Jockeys’ Guild, was quoted in that same issue, commenting, “From the reports I’ve been getting, more horses seem to be breaking down with shattering-type injuries than ever before.” Jemas, however, was of the belief that it was a mistake to blame Butazolidan and Lasix when the real offenders were much stronger drugs, such as methodone, xylocaine, reserpine, dilaudid, and the main culprit, Sublimaze.

Sold to humans as Fentanyl, Sublimaze was a low-dosage, high therapeutic-effect drug of the narcotic-analgesic group. It was described as a rapid-working narcotic, and of short duration. Dr. George Maylin, associate professor of toxicology at Cornell University and head of its drug testing program, described Sublimaze as a drug that gave a horse such a sense of well-being, stating “they don’t know they have legs on them.”

Finally, in 1979, a test for Sublimaze was discovered. But soon after, a new drug surfaced called Stadol. After only a few months on the market, Stadol was detected in the horse Quill Prince, who had finished first at Aqueduct. That led to a 45-day suspension of the horse’s trainer Pete Ferriola. More new drugs continued to appear for which there was no test.

On May, 13, 1979, racing took a major blow, in much the same manner it has this year, when “60 Minutes” aired a segment that painted a frightening picture of drug abuse in America, which included films of spills at various tracks. Although the show was criticized by racing officials as being sensationalistic journalism, it made a powerful impact on those who saw it.

Racing retaliated by tearing the show’s statistics to shreds. The segment had Americans believing that 80% of the horses racing in this country did so with the benefit of harsh drugs. However, it neglected to report that in 1978 there were 135,000 horse races in America, involving more than 1.2 million starters. Statistics from the NASCRC showed that were only 303 cases of major medication violations, which averaged out to one violation for every 3,960 starters.

A major breakthrough in drug prevention came in July, 1979 when Finger Lakes Racetrack in upstate New York introduced pre-race testing, which began daily at 7:30 a.m. when a state appointed veterinarian accompanied by an identifier went through the stable area extracting blood samples from horses entered to race that day. Just 10 days after its initial use, the first horse, a 5-year-old gelding named Refican, was detected as having a foreign substance in his blood and was ordered scratched by the stewards.

Despite the tumultuous decade from Dancer’s Image to the “60 Minutes” segment, the problem of drugs in America was tame compared to years past. Back then, it was racing’s dirty little secret and brought out a number of unsavory, but Runyonesque, characters.

Before the advent of saliva testing in the 1930s, drug incidents went pretty much unnoticed or were ignored. It was because of this malaise and ignorance that few reports of drug-related incidents could be found. A well-known English authority once claimed that Americans started the practice of doping and eventually brought it across the Atlantic, where many Englishmen picked it up.

Americans, however, claimed that drugs actually originated in England and France. This was substantiated by Professor J.B. Robertson, who stated in the Sporting Chronicle that both sedative drugs and stimulants were given to racehorses as far back as the time of James I. He also stated that in 1750, the leaves of the cocoa plant reached Europe from Peru and were administered to racehorses as a stimulant, along with cocaine, one of its alkaloids, and caffeine. This occurrence was in practice before the coming of the Americans in 1895, although it did become much more widespread after that date.

Drugs first showed up in America just about that time and were sold openly under the euphemistic name of “Speed Sustaining Elixir.” The elixir was publicly advertised in several turf publications under that name, and very often the salesman would administer it himself and direct the treatment of the horse. The one thing that remained a secret, even to the salesman, was the ingredients. All everyone knew was that it came from “across the water” and that it had proved effective in England and France before being imported to the States. The creator of the formula supposedly was a French chemist who first tried it out in his native land before passing it on to the English. After the elixir reached America, there were numerous incidents of horses “going loco” from the drug or its many imitations, and it soon became known as the “dope evil.”

Through the years, the doping of horses became more systematized and scientific, and racing officials admitted that stamping it out would be as difficult as eliminating the human use of alcohol.

By 1930, one of the more popular drugs to administer to horses was heroin. Although lethal in large doses, horses were able to tolerate it due to its addictive qualities. The use of heroin on the backstretch lured a number of unsavory characters, mainly addicts hoping to get a fix. One such character was “Railroad Red,” who would go from to barn, serving as a guinea pig to test the purity of the heroin before it was given to the horses. For years, trainers used Railroad Red’s services. Red eventually got tired of the routine and decided to go straight. He locked himself in a barn loft for three days and went “cold turkey.” Although he never touched the stuff again, he turned to liquor as a substitute and became a drunk.

On Aug. 13, 1931 at Saratoga, an incident took place that would have a profound effect on the sport. A Rancocas Stable horse named Ladana was given a sedative and hypnotic called Chloral before the running of the Burnt Hills Handicap, for which she was going to be favored. A stablehand confessed to the act, but the trainer was held “absolutely responsible” for the care and safety of the horse and he was banned from entering any horses for the remainder of the meet. That decision gave birth to the absolute insurer rule, which holds a trainer responsible for everything that occurs in his barn.

By 1933, drug incidents in America had escalated to new heights, but a new era was about to begin in the field of drug testing. In early 1934, the first big breakthrough came at a meeting of the NASRC when Joseph E. Widener, builder of Hialeah and a leading figure in New York racing, offered to send Florida Racing Commission chemist Charles E. Morgan and veterinarian J. Garland Catlett to France to make a detailed study of the saliva testing that was being used in that country.

A modified version of the French testing procedures had already proved successful in Florida that winter, resulting in the suspensions of several trainers. Unlike France, where every winner was tested, Morgan only took samples of horses who showed by their actions the possible use of stimulants. On May 8 of that year, the NASRC passed the resolution endorsing the use of the saliva test. Morgan and Dr. Catlett then returned to France later that year, bringing back newer drug testing methods, including a more reliable test for detecting the presence of cocaine.

From 1935 to 1936, trainer suspensions dropped from 82 to 23. During the winter of 1937-38, Dr. Catlett began testing the urine of greyhounds to further enhance drug testing procedures. His testing proved successful and he presented his findings to the New York State Racing Commission. They were so impressed with the findings they provided the funding to continue the experiment on horses.

After extensive research and experimenting on horses, who were administered drugs and then observed and clocked on the track in the morning, it was determined that the saliva tests detected the presence of drugs in all cases administered orally, but was less successful detecting drugs that were administered by hypodermic. The urine test, however, not only detected the presence of drugs in both methods of administration, but also in cases where the dosage was as minute as one-tenth of a grain.

The one drawback to the urine testing was that the sample was not as easily attained as it was in the saliva test. Normally, horses will pass urine from a few minutes to an hour after cooling out, but in one instance at Hialeah, in which a horse won and paid $196, the assistant was forced to wait in the stall until 9 o’clock that night. There was another case in which an inspector had to wait over nine hours for the horse to urinate.

In 1941, the urine test made national headlines when it uncovered a number of caffeine positives at Hollywood Park. It wasn’t the positives themselves that created the uproar as much as the owners of the horses involved, the most notable being MGM head Louis B. Mayer, Harry L. Warner, and William Leavitt Brann. On June 14 of that year, California board chairman Jerry Geisler summoned 11 owners of nine individual racing stables to a hearing to investigate the rash of caffeine positives. A month later, the commission suspended five trainers and cleared all owners.

It was later discovered that the “guilty” parties actually were the grooms, who had refused to wait hours for their horse to urinate. To quicken the proceedings they urinated in the cups themselves, thus making the source of the caffeine, not a pill or hypodermic, but a coffee pot in the track kitchen.

Over the years, new names cropped up, such as clenbuterol and Erythropoietin (more commonly known as EPO). The latter is a synthetic hormone that increases the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This drug was determined to be performance enhancing and also proved fatal in some instances. Clenbuterol is a decongestant and bronchodilator that makes breathing easier and helps build muscle mass. Earlier this year, the California board began discussions to prohibit the drug from appearing in post-race tests. Currently, clenbuterol is permitted to appear in post-race tests up to a limit of 5 nanograms in urine and 25 picograms of blood.

Major changes are in store in racing, with the Breeders’ Cup voting to ban the use of Lasix for 2-year-olds competing in the 2012 event and ban all race-day drugs in 2013.

To demonstrate how little things have changed, in 1981, Illinois announced it was banning drugs. Dave Feldman, president of the Chicago HBPA (Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) issued a statement, saying, “It was the worst decision I have ever heard of a racing board making. Horses become cheap because they have problems. Bute and Lasix help alleviate some of these problems. Without such medication, there will be countless sore horses trying to race at Illinois tracks, particularly late in the season. This will be chaos for horse players.”

As long as horses race and new drugs infiltrate the market, there are going to medication controversies. The drug-testing procedures have improved significantly over the years, but need to be consistent throughout the country and need to keep up with the designer drugs that are being produced in second and third generation form.

Racing is not only a sport, employing thousands upon thousands of people and generating huge sums of revenue, it also is a business. It is not easy separating morality from practicality, thus making it difficult for racing jurisdictions searching for the correct solution. Although economics is a major part of racing, the decision makers must realize that beyond the morass of conflicting motivations, such as attendance, mutuel handle, political gain, and financial solvency, is the Thoroughbred, without whom all else in meaningless.


Leave a Comment:

Bill Two

Very informative.  I was just wondering how the horses that competed in the east and midwest in the last few days will recover from their efforts - especially in view of the fact that virtually all of the horses are administered Salix.  It amazes me that more horses don't collapse in this heat.

01 Jul 2012 9:18 PM
an ole railbird

good job steve "ole boy". all of that needed to be brought to light.  by reading between the lines ,I gather that some newer fans think that drug testing at the tracks is a new procedure. wrong wrong wrong. drug testing was around ,when i came into the game in the 50s.

   in 1965 when quarter horse racing was still in its infantcy, i attended the quarter horse convention,& listened to a vet, speak, that was from the univ. of colorada. i am un sure of the spelling of his "german" name, but it was pronounced" beerhouse". he stated at that time, that he had the ability to tell when a trainer changed well water on a horse. his testing proceeder was that good, that far back. he explained that it was merely the question of "how much money do i want to spend on which test".  

having said all that, with todays advanced testing ability, there is nothing that you give a horse, either i.v. or orally that cant be tested period. if the lab cares to test for a certin drug,it is impossible to get away with it.

 considering the small percentage of bad tests, the whole thing has been blown out of perportion. what else do you want. you have the horse in the test barn, you catch the sample. it yours to test anyway you want to test it. what else can you ask for. go test it until "your little hearts content".

  i am conveniced that most of the heat is created by animal activists groups (&other groups of unknowing people) who have bombarded the press with propaganda. until it has all out of wack.

the infortmation is out there to prove that a small percentage of racehorses are ever drugged. the hecklers just dont want to hear the truth.

also can someone enlighten me, on the deal about, "cobra venom". when & where did this come into the debate. i keep pretty close tabs on the industry, but i flat missed that. i never heard of its use until i started" hanging with haskins".

bottom line is the opposition will not rest until they have ruined the sport that i have loved all my life. and they are doing it with propaganda. thats the same way that "castro" took over cuba. remember.

enough said.  "an ole railbird".

01 Jul 2012 9:36 PM
Paula Higgins

This was excellent Steve. A really good overview of the subject, including the history behind it. O.k., I am going to make some of my fellow posters mad here, but I think Salix should be allowed. It is there to treat a problem (bleeding) and not used as a performance enhancer. There is a difference. If we start talking cobra venom, steroids, EPA, etc., then clearly they should be banned. I think the recent NYT's article was a hack job. Disappointing coming from someone like Joe Drape, who I thought better of. But not surprising coming from the NYT's. The Times has never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I have heard the arguments against Salix and in my opinion the good outweighs the bad. But the powers that be will succumb to pressure from the outside media, just like Chief Justice John Roberts did last Thursday, and ban it.

01 Jul 2012 10:43 PM

Very nice job of re-capping this subject, Steve. It is certainly good to have some perspective and realize the issue just didn't jump up last week, or last month, or last year. It is a problem that has evolved over time.

To me, besides the more advanced testing techniques, the thing that makes it different today than "back then" is, 95-98% of horses race on lasix....that in and of itself condemns that practice, because any sane person understands that that many horses don't actually "need" it. (As attested to by the rest of the racing world) And, the main problem with administering it to only those horses that actually need it, those that don't get it are believed to be at a competitive disadvantage over those that do.  The weight loss alone can account for some of the "performance enhancing" qualities attributed to the drug.  It is a catch-22 for any trainer or owner.  Horses coming to the U.S. from overseas to race in our races routinely put their horses on lasix for this very reason.  Then, they go back home and race without it!

What we don't know, and what is scary about now, is how horses that have been on lasix for a generation will fare with going "cold turkey" so to speak. Since all drugs have side effects, we don't know what effect removing the drug may have.  Which is why I support the phased out approach recommended by the RCI and the Jockey Club.

01 Jul 2012 10:56 PM

Well, Steve, nice history lesson, and while I doubt it, I hope that it, for one, puts to rest the notion that drugs are the prime reason why horses today have far fewer starts (than in times past). While I'm relatively sure it wasn't your intent, this little piece also was somewhat empowering to those, such as I, who support the continued use of race-day furosemide which is a therapeutic for EIPH, and today a non-masker. The focus, rather than on furosemide, should be directed to the best possible testing practices together with far more rigorous pre-race soundness protocols. The truly difficult issue would then relate to what level of unsoundness is deemed "acceptable". This inevitably might lead to a pandora's box (or slippery slope) scenario, but perhaps that would be as it should.  

01 Jul 2012 11:05 PM

Great history. What is your response to the broad population of constituents who believe furosemide helps the horse rather than hurts the industry? I don't agree a bit and want racing au natural. I believe racing will survice without Maggi Moss. Again, great article. Please take a position.

01 Jul 2012 11:07 PM

Fascinating read! The last paragraph summed it up as only you could write it. Thank you.

01 Jul 2012 11:29 PM

History was equivalent to "Don't ask; don't tell" and current use of Bute and Lasix is just destroying both public confidence and the breed. How about taking a position?

01 Jul 2012 11:50 PM


I do not know the law on this subject. So I went on line and came up with this AP report from March 30, 2007:

“BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. -- Five horsemen were indicted Friday on charges they tried to fix races by injecting harness horses with substances designed to deaden pain or improve performance”.

The law seems to be in place in NY, so instead of just suspending and fining the violators, why don’t we also try them like crack dealers and send them to jail?

02 Jul 2012 6:38 AM
Pedigree Ann

Is it possible that widespread use of the NSAID bute is why we have the huge expansion of horses using Lasix since the 1980s? NSAIDs have side effects, too, and among them are gastric sores (like aspirin, leading to the recent rash of horses with gastric ulcers?), internal bleeding, and high blood pressure. The latter two could contribute to bleeding in the lungs. Why is all the emphasis on Lasix with no talk of routine bute use? It would seem that sore horses taking bute would be more likely to suffer breakdowns.

02 Jul 2012 7:54 AM

I agree with jlmagee.

How can lasix not be seen as a performance enhancer when 2yr olds making their 1st start are on it? It's not therapeutic if the horses don't need it. If you need to draw water up and out of their systems for them to not bleed, you have bigger problems.

I'm in the NO camp for race day meds. You want to train on Bute and Salix, fine but you're not running on it. It's a shame NY gave in years back and allowed the Salix. It was always fun to see trainers cry about not being able to use it, and then see the horse's run just fine without.

02 Jul 2012 8:36 AM

Great article Steve. Finally someone writes the truth.

To all of those who want "au natural" as someone posted above I say dream on. You obviously have no clue about horses to say such a statement. If you cared about horses as you claim you wouldn't want them to be in pain as all athletes sometimes get sore.

If you had a headache would you want it to be illegal to take aspirin? Most medications that horses take are safe and beneficial. I don't agree with performance enhancing drugs but medications that help the horse should stay legal. This ignorance of what is best for a horse blows my mind. Tell your favorite football players to play "au natural" and see what they tell you.

02 Jul 2012 8:44 AM
Dan McGough

Try this. No one will do it because there are people with too much power and too much money to lose to give up their advantage.

For any class 1 or 2 drug violation. The trainer (frst violation) is given 60 days and he/she MUST provide the name of the vet/vet clinic or individual who provided the drug. The person/vet providing the drug can't enter the grounds of a race track for 2 yrs (including all partners in the clinic). If the trainer does not divulge his source he gets a 2 yr ban from all race tracks and the horse and horse owner who has the positive gets a 2 yr ban from all tracks.

Owners will see their costs go down.

If Lasix is to be continued it must be administered by the state vet. This should help control the additional help which is given with the Lasix. Everbody denies this but Lasix is not the only drug in the syringe.

It's all about winning to some and the idea it's about the horse is horse apples to these parties. The level playing field is for everone else, not these individuals.

02 Jul 2012 9:36 AM
an ole railbird

 if the people who are against the use of ther. meds. on race day, have their way& they are elimiated on the evidence that has been presented.

  i shall weep for democracy.

"an ole railbird".

02 Jul 2012 9:37 AM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, thank you for the history lesson.

I remember reading about someone asking Man O'War's trainer if he 'milkshaked' Man O'War and the trainer replied something to the effect of 'Heck, no! He's enough to handle without it.' Only I think the language was a little stronger.

I don't think Bute & Lasix are the real issues. Training methods are and the drugs are used to make up for it. Horses used to being exercised regularly and vigorously will get used to it - the muscles, tendons and ligaments will strengthen. Horses might get sore, but it will get worked out not covered over. Also, lung capacity will increase and the need for lasix should dramatically decrease. It is insane to keep a horse boxed up for 22+/- hours a day and then expect them to perform at their best with no consequences. The drugs are to minimize the consequences.

As for the comment someone made about Lasix not being a performance enhancer - why do people get interested in a European horse coming over here and running on Lasix for the first time?

02 Jul 2012 9:40 AM

There are two kinds of horses: horses that have bled during a race and horses that have not yet bled but will bleed during a race. Lasix substantially reduces both risks to the horse and can prevent the onset of damage to the lungs. That is why caring owners and trainers give Lasix to two year olds. Period.

02 Jul 2012 9:44 AM
Edgardo Iriarte

As usual a very informative and interesting article Steve.

I´m a breeder, owner and trainer (of my own horses) in Argentina.

I feed just oats, hay and water and my horses receive and additional help pasturing in large padocks six hours per day. I'm a fanatic "naturalist" with very good results at racing.

But when in race day I convert from "naturalist" to "madicatist". All my horses run with furo and bute. Why?. Because if not I'm giving a lot of advantages to the other participants. Salix means five lenghts, buta masks pain and the horses continue to run. This are clear facts. The United States and Argentina are today the only "islands" jursdictions that allow both on race days and this policy is doing a very bad service to our industries.

I don't dispute the benefits of Salix to bleeders. But 99% of horses run on Salix. We do have a population of 99% bleeders? Not at all. Racing is not anymore "provincial", nowadays is global sport with many new important and growing markets. In the global arena American and Argentinian horses are now considered as second class and just a few people want to risk buying a horse that will need to run without furosemide in his new destination. Salix in my opinion should be banned for all races of 2 and 3 years old horses for a commercial reason. We need to accept to be part of the world, not to a county.

Buta is even worse, masking pain it put in risk horses and jockeys. It should be banned in all races, we need to protect horses, jockeys and the sport.

Meanwhile, I will continue to use Salix and Bute against all my convictions.  

02 Jul 2012 10:53 AM

Very thought provoking article, it makes one wonder about some of the legendary greats like Man O' War. That thought is very short lived for me because I would never let myself believe it. You have to have heroes in this game, it gives the sport meaning. I believe that the original formula for the soft drink coke had the drug cocaine in it, so it's not surprising about early drug use being overlooked in horse racing. I guess it makes me think of Phar Lap and his untimely mysterious death. Who really knows what happened to the great Aussie horse? I see it like this, if the drug is harmful to the horse, I'm against it, period. If it's therapeutic, has no adverse affects, legalize it across the board. It's only unfair if some horses are allowed to use it and others are not. I'm not an expert on the subject, there's too much I don't know, but I do think we are breeding our horses to break down. Too bad I don't have any answers for that dilemma.

02 Jul 2012 10:57 AM

I enjoyed the history lesson. When I came into the sport in my mid-teens in New England in the early 1950s old timers in the barns at the tracks still referred to Man O'War as a "hophead".

Three years ago The Blood-Horse announced the release of the South African research report on lasix with this headline. "Study Shows Furosemide Has Beneficial Effects". The article begins: "A groundbreaking study to be published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that furosemide does more than enhance performance in Thoroughbred racehorses;"

There it is, stated in black and white in this very publication, in conjunction with the oft-cited, poster-boy study for the efficacy of furosemide: lasix enhances performance in Thoroughbred raceshorses.

On the flip side of the furosemide question, why aren't there any professional studies that examine what other effects regular,long-term or excessive use of lasix can induce in horses, especially young horses with still developing skeletal systems.

What sense does it make to use lasix for a supposedly humane reason if that very use has other equally deleterious effects on the horse? Absent valid research I have to wonder: is the medicine perhaps worse than the touted cure?

Face it, too many trainers today take an assembly line, magic cure-all, one size fits all approach to training. A cautious, informed and caring trainer, willing to take the time, knows how to take an individual therapeutic approach to eliminate or limit the bleeding from  EIPH in most horses.  

02 Jul 2012 11:27 AM

Hello Steve, I sent an article about 1 hr ago, and I have not seen it displayed, it's just as nice as yours, however if it's not displayed, then I do believe that there is no free expression regarding Lasix/Salix, no one owns the rights on these drug issues, and although some owners are high powered lawyers, this does not give them the ok to support illegal drug uses, they are all looking for the prize!!!good is good, and bad is bad!!

enough already!!!!!

02 Jul 2012 11:32 AM

Steve the thing is...if you do not use these illegal drugs, then guess what, you will never win any race!! this is the new way to win races in America..the Vets drug them, and the owners act like their Horses are superior, only hay,.oats and water, drugs is the new winning angle in America, bad for Horse racing!!!

02 Jul 2012 11:35 AM
Bill Two

My concern with Salix is that it dehydrates horses and it will be interesting to see how long it takes the horses that ran this weekend in the stifling heat and humidity to make it back to the races.  I think the prolific use of this drug accounts in large part for how infrequently horses race these days.  I cannot imagine a horse like Citation or Carry Back running as often as they did with Salix.

02 Jul 2012 11:38 AM

I found Edgardo Iraiarte's post 02 Jul 2012 10:53 quite compelling. In a perfect world I'd say ban all raceday medication but I wonder if the picture being painted of the racing world beyond the shores of Argentina and the USA is really a perfect one. It'd be interesting to hear from others in Europe, South Africa, Australia and Asia.

02 Jul 2012 12:34 PM

Thank you so much for enlightening those in the dark. I grew up on the backside in the 1970's and took out my trainers license in 1977. I was determined to become a top trainer and had the skills do do so, but got disgusted watching sublimaze hopped horses win over and over. Tap them, block them and hop them....that was the tradition back then and I would have no part of it.

 So, I decided to sell my only horse and go to Europe to see what "drug-free" racing was like. There, I learned that trainers give "vitamin" mixtures with a hypodermic in the stable yard before going over to race. Their solution to EIPH with no lasix was to bleed the horse a liter or so to reduce blood volume before a race. No idea if it worked or not.

  What should be of concern to racing officials now is just what kind of "remedies" will be utilized to prevent bleeding if Lasix were to be banned. Lasix is a very safe and  effective medication which is used to treat a problem which is not going to go away. Most horses bleed to some degree or other and horsemen are very creative in finding "remedies." Let's hope that whatever replaces Lasix is as beneficial to the horse as Lasix and not as harsh as bleeding them in the stall before a race. Remember the law of unintended consequences...

02 Jul 2012 12:38 PM


Your timing could not have been better.

From Europe, comes this report in today’s Racing Post:

“CORINE BARANDE-BARBE has vigorously denied any wrongdoing after revealing that Cirrus Des Aigles has tested positive for a "massive" dose of a banned anti-inflammatory drug.

The case relates to a routine test carried out after the three-time Group 1 winner finished second to Golden Lilac in last month's Prix d'Ispahan.”

02 Jul 2012 12:47 PM

Oh dear poor sophie K and tiersas... America stands alone in the global racing jurisdicutions with its tolerance of drugs both performance enhancing or not.  You are not ground breaking or ahead of the game but seen as dinosaurs who are crippling the breed.  You have the highest fatality rates in the world.  Question.  If a horse bleeds so much it needs medication to race without serious damage to itself than surely that horse should not be racing.  That is why you so called horsemen oppose the ban, all your unfit horses would not be able to race, it is a financial not ethical argument.  Funny how the top racehorses in the world are all racing WITHOUT drugs.  Frankel, Black Caviar etc are all drug free on race days

02 Jul 2012 12:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Jersey Boy, in a case like Cirrus des Aigles, I tend to believe the trainer, because I cant imagine the trainer of a horse of this caliber being dumb enough to give him a "massive" dose of any prohibited drug. When a major horse has a massive drug in his system my first inclination is to think that horse was gotten to or the test was totally screwed up. Maybe I'm being naive, but I cant imagine anyone being that stupid.

02 Jul 2012 1:12 PM

Thank you, Steve, for providing your readership with this background on drugs and race horses.  It is the first such attempt that I have seen.

Above everything else, I do not want the federal government involved.  The industry has enough problems without the feds doing their usual FUBAR--and they would.

I wasn't aware that horses can race with bute.  I would be against anything that would mask pain.  It would be sad to see a horse miss an important race, but it would be sadder to see the horse take a step and break its leg and having to be euthanized.

OTOH, when the veterinary field tells you that eventually all racers will bleed, I have to start thinking that Salix probably isn't so bad.

It is also sad by human medical industry people that if men live long enough they will all face prostate cancer.

I myself deal with brething issues so I can emphathize with horses when it comes to working while you bleed in your lungs.

If anyone hasn't listened to a veterinary discussion on drugs, they should listen to Talk Back here at Bloodhorse.  In the second half of the 'debate', the vet noted that in Europe the horses train using Lasix but that they do not use it on race day.

He also indicated he had been sent drugs that the Euros use.

And  he makes great points about how the horses there are housed and trained vs how it is done here in the States.

Thanks again.

02 Jul 2012 2:15 PM

Jan 31, 1955 article in TIME magazine.

Pages 92-94, 97-104.  Copy and paste into your browser.

Begins with the "swamp fever epidemic of 1947...which killed about 80 horses"  Spread in part by unsterilized needles being shared.

02 Jul 2012 2:42 PM

The racing public was 'sold' on the use of race day medications by 'the powers that be' stating horses would be better off, which meant they would race longer (age wise) and more often, which would result in fuller fields. It was a better business decision. Statistics and practices over the years have proven otherwise. How can we go from a few rare horses running on medications to ALL horses running on medications with in a relatively short period of time (decade or so)? First, as an racehorse owner, I know it doesnt take anything to get your horse put on those medications, which means the justification of having a horse on medications is seriously flawed. Yes we have testing practices that allow us to 'see' into the lungs and identified that many horses bled..but whats was normal and what really constitutes a bleeder has been diluted because science says almost all horses bled now....huh? Anyone see a problem with this? Think a study needs to be done on wild mustangs first to determine normal as they are one of the few 'breeds' not affected by mans business, medication and breeding practices/intervention. The fact that EVERY European horse that has no need (G1 stakes winners in form or they wouldnt be making the trip) nor ever used race day medications when racing at 'home' ALL get Salix/Lasix for the Breeders Cup races speaks volumes. Certainly some are using during training but its not used as the crutch there as it is here. Second, the stigmatization that used to be associated with a 'bleeder' doesnt exists anymore, nobody seems to care. Horses are bleeding through salix/lasix and as more continue to do so and it will happen, what comes next? True 'bleeders' largely arent identified which means this trait is now passed indiscriminately in the bred. I know there are those that believe and have been led to believe that this condition is not inheritable, think again, Barletts Childers aka Bleeding Childers didnt get that name for nothing, via Herrod also know as a bleeder, from which 99% of the American TB sire line comes. Pedigree is NOT the only reason it occurs but certainly certain lines are PREDISPOSED to the condition that breeders no longer worry about due to the use of salix. Studies have been conducted and released substantiating the theory the US breeders chose to ignore because of the 'business' aspects. Just because the hereditary link has yet to be identified doesnt mean it doesnt exist. Additionally, as the name implies, exercise, or the changes in the way the US conditions and 'stresses' todays racehorse also plays a part. As has been pointed out here in recent months, training methods and racing has changed drastically in the last few decades. Stress, done correctly, 'forces' the body to adapt and become stronger...a good example is the studies done on bone remodeling..which makes sounder horses. Common sense says that the more conditioned an athlete is the less prone to many times do you see todays horses actually 'worked' at the distances they will be raced at (baring some sprinters) or race as a prep for another race? And what I mean by race is within a week to 10 days. No one wants to 'stress' the animals today in fear of leaving the 'race' on the training track...contradicting conditioning. Other countries are more careful about their breeding and conditioning practices. They also have less 'breeding for sales' and more breed to race 'programs'. Other countries appear to have fuller fields and seem to be doing just fine without race day medications. Just a quick look at the latest BH results of 18 listed Eng G1 races shows average field size of 14 horses. Other than the Kentucky Derby, how many G1 races in the US outside the TC and BC have we seen full fields? Anyone who watches TVG and watches the races in Europe and Australia can clearly see they appear to be doing just fine without race day medication. Good horses still win. Occasionally they throw a clunker which is hello...normal...everyone/thing has an off day. Now I know that the number of starts and probably the numbers of starters has also declined in other countries as here and probably has other similar reasons as the US minus medication but most wouldnt know that watching the TV. Arguments about whats best for the horse and that the US horses NEED Salix and/or Bute, much less any other medications need only turn on the TV and watch these races with good size fields to see that the crutch appears illogical. Instead we need to be breeding and conditioning a better racehorse without medication which in the long run will be better for the bred. Sorry for those that are more into the instant gratification of todays practices/society. Pop a pill and youll be 'ripped' too...really? As a KY resident and racehorse owner/trainer, I fully support the ban on race day medication and would love to see racing take it one step further and state no horse can enter the breeding shed until they are 5YO. Think you would see major changes in the overall management and soundness of our horses, which in the long run IS a better business practice.

02 Jul 2012 3:17 PM
Stellar Jayne


You really did your in-depth research that must have taken a lot of time.  Well done!  

If drugging occurred as far as the late 1700s I guess nothing will ever change and all the furor over the topic is for naught!  A lot of black ink and paper can be saved now and the BS can end by everyone in the industry.

Going forward, the racing enthusiasts and bettors should not be heartbroken over death on the track and the black screen, or their betting losses  What a sad, sad world this has become.   Innocent animals are sacrificed for human entertainment and glory, ego, and monetary greed.

Personally, I'm sick and tired of hearing '... for the good of the horse....'  No one truly does anything for the good of the horse, except maybe John Sheriff's team and Ann and Jerry Moss.

Everything in this industry is a Sham, except for the horses!

02 Jul 2012 3:46 PM
tanq a former owner and trainer of a public stable I was active when bute and Lasix became legal.  Horses had to be scoped and blood had to present in the trachea in order to be on the permitted medication list for Lasix.  We've all heard of medication abuses and there's not a doubt in my mind that much of it is true.  I once had a trainer tell me that his brother, also a trainer, was using a potent pain killer and hadn't I heard of it.  Well, no, I certainly hadn't and wouldn't have known how to obtain it if I were so inclined.  BUT - it certainly cleared up why this guy's horses were running lights out and mine were lucky to be second and third.  To trot out some tired metaphors: There's nothing new under the sun, and:  Follow the money - whether it be sports, banking, charities, or what have you.

02 Jul 2012 3:46 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

A+++ and five gold stars plus a Snickers bar. Great article Steve. And I liked your post Edgardo Iriarte, very nice.

02 Jul 2012 4:16 PM

Let's get one thing straight-The consequences of EIPH are harmful to the horse. Almost all racehorses running on U.S. dirt tracks (and many on turf) experience EIPH-greatest during actual racing conditions. It has been conclusively shown that Furosemide is the most efficacious treatment for reducing the incidence and degree of EIPH. Those who don't agree with any of the above please offer your evidence to the contrary. Now, while furosemide has diuretic properties, it has others as well which aid in the minimization of EIPH. Can it also be shown that administration of furosemide can enhance performance? Let's assume the answer is yes. Is this sufficient reason for the withholding of race-day Salix? I'd say that from an ethical perspective the answer is no. On what's been stated thus far, who would disagree, and why? Well, what's left? Some have raised the issue of furosemide's potential deliterious side-effects. Let's hear some specific proof (not speculation), and the degrees to which it may be harmful--weighing this against the harmful effects of EIPH. Some argue that furosemide has been shown to be not necessary in foreign jurisdictions. Firstly, the fact that it has been banned (on race-day) is not a proof that furosemide would not bbe efficacious for their runners as well. Also, studies have indicated that turf, particularly softer turf, creates less impact, and that impact may be contributory to the mechanism of EIPH. We also don't know what, if any, substitute (perhaps undetected) substances are administered to those horses. And, what of the argument that race-day Salix administration is harmful to Racing-i.e. the public perception argument? Should such perception be bowed to no matter the weight of scientific evidence to the contrary? And, if a choice must be made, which should take precedence, the horse or the horse business?      

02 Jul 2012 4:58 PM
Karen in Texas

This is a good historical perspective, Steve. You are not only able to write literature-like prose, but can articulate facts and details in an investigative manner as well.

My concern with the furor over raceday medications is that much of it seems to be driven by public perception/opinion, rather than science and logic. Since the O'Neill CHRB ruling on TCO2 overages, there has been a lot of "conversation" on various blog sites that is absolutely appalling. The comments reveal that many people have no idea of the differences among the therapeutic agents used in horses; they lump together all drugs/meds as bad, harmful, and completely unnecessary ever. They even think TCO2 is a "drug" given to horses instead of a lab value measurement common to all humans and animals.

Lasix should not be banned without careful consideration given to the Hinchcliffe, Morley, and Guthrie efficacy study published in July, 2009, as it was a "landmark" study and a good example of controlled, clinical research. Why it took so many years to research and confirm the effectiveness of a widely used medication in the thoroughbred industry is beyond me, but more studies need to be done to replicate and expand upon those findings. The efficacy should be reconfirmed and balanced against negative side effects for the sake of the horses. Weighing the positive against the negative is the basis for prescribing all medications in actual practice. (As Paula noted above.) There is probably still time to carefully and accurately evaluate the furosemide issue, but the initial work might better have been done a couple of decades ago.

Ranagulzion----Did you listen to the Talkin' Horses segment with Dr. Foster Northrop last week? He was asked about other countries' practices and his reply was quite interesting.

02 Jul 2012 5:26 PM

I am a great admirer of John Shirreffs, but to say that he is the only trainer who cares about his horses is pretty ridiculous. He uses lasix on most of his horses, just like everyone else. Training horses is certainly not an easy way to make a living. Most trainers love horses and are trying to do their best by them. People on some of these blogs are so cynical and negative. You have to wonder why they call themselves racing fans.  

02 Jul 2012 5:35 PM
Pat Lee

What a great article.  I really like "old rail bird" and "retro's" comments.  Right on !  

02 Jul 2012 6:02 PM

why doesn't n.y.r.a. bring back the 6 hr. retention barn for every race, every horse?

most race day drugs have to be administered 4-6 hours before a race for maximum effectiveness.

it worked when they had it. certain trainers went from 25% to under 10% and then back to 25% with the end of the every juicer in the u.s  is racing in n.y and it's not just about the purses.

also every track should have a lasix barn, where every horse must be 4 hrs. before it's race and stay there until race time. only a track vet would be allowed to administer the lasix.

the dopers get away with it because the tracks, in their hunger for horses, allow it.

02 Jul 2012 9:07 PM
Paula Higgins

Some interesting comments, and the thing I love about all of them, pro or con Salix, is that it is clear we all love the horses. John Shirreffs is strongly pro-Salix. I think that says it all. If John Shirreffs thinks it is beneficial, than it is. This is a man who never puts a foot wrong when it comes to the care of his horses. I do not believe the risk of dehydration is as significant as bleeding. You have to weigh the risk/benefit ratio. It is the same in human medicine. You can rehydrate a horse but how do you stop them from bleeding? I wonder if Zenyatta was a bleeder? Something tells me she might have been. Would we really have wanted to miss her historic 3 years of racing? I don't think so. Bute is another story. NSAID'S are a really mixed bag and can cause serious problems in animals. For example, my elderly arthritic schnauzer was put on a COX II NSAID. He ended up in the Vet. emergency clinic last Sunday for the whole day due to severe side effects. I would imagine very short term use is relatively safe for horses but the operating principle should be, let the horse recover and don't run them sore. I believe the vast majority of trainers care about their horses, as do their owners. Let them decide whether they use Salix or not.

02 Jul 2012 10:28 PM

I believe that over time capitalism will rid horse racing of raceday Lasix, so there

is no reason for me to get worked up over this subject.

This is an attempt at parody because cynicism is not the only sin I know.

If you disagree with me, offer your proof. I do not need to prove my assertions. They are true because I made them. It is a proper stance. I embrace it.  He who asserts should not have the burden of proof.

When I say that racing on turf reduces the incidence of EIPH, it is true.

When I say that nearly all horses running on dirt, experience EIPH while racing, it is also true.

However, reducing racing on dirt should not be pursued as a solution. Just give them Lasix. Running on dirt might be an element of the problem, but for the welfare of the horses, it must be protected. That is ethical and as I said cynicism is not the only sin I know. (This is not original. Forgive me Mr. Stimson)

03 Jul 2012 7:09 AM

The business side is the dominant one in the US and the drug use on the animal for financial gain.After so many decades of drugs used in racing thoroughbreds the drugs have become part of the breed here passed from one generation to the next.One difference here from Europe is the main surface that most of the races are run is dirt as opposed to turf,which I would venture to guess makes the animals a lot more sore than running on the more forgiving turf.I think there are too many races run in this country from a viewpoint of the bettor.I also think that too many animals are bred that shouldnt be racing at all.Greed is the prevalent motivator for the majority of the owners IMO,and I dont listen to the talk.This years Derby and Preakness winner IHA was asked by Bob Costas what part of his decision to retire IHA was business,his reply absolutely none.A few weeks later he was sold to the highset bidder.I know what I thought when I heard his reply before he even sold him to the highest bidder and I know I was right.

03 Jul 2012 7:58 AM
jim culpepper

Among others, Bill Presseys, "Thoroedge" blog elucidates methods to prevent bleeding and other issues.

03 Jul 2012 10:02 AM

Do human athletes also suffer from EIPH?  Those elite runners may be suffering from the same thing, no?  Maybe they should run on Salix/Lasix also.  Maybe a coach or a sports trainer can chime in on this.  If it is beneficial to horses could it be beneficial to human athletes?

03 Jul 2012 10:26 AM
Arian Haxhillari

Im shocked with people wanted to continue lasix.

As an MD i administer this medication in humans and no one understand the side effects of this drug.

I think the electrolyte abnormalities in horses has never studied but i'm sure  that the horses that down need to be tested for this kind of abnormalities.

The racing offices should start testing horses before the race not only for drugs but for electrolyte abnormalities too.

Not to play down trainers but they have no clue about this topic . I'm an owner and see my trainers how ignorant they are on this topic. They give IV fluids and lasix before the race and don't know why.

The same thing after the race. They give dextrose 5%   or Normal saline 0.9% or whatever they have not knowing what they treat.

Lasix before the race, racing itself and Dextrose 5 % before and after the race brings sodium and potassium very low and the horse will take time to recover.

Racing needs a study about this things before allowing it to happened. Giving medication to horses causes many problems that are paid by the owners at the very end.

This if frustrating because an ignorant trainer makes the decision which at the ends costs the horse ant the owner.

Arian Haxhillari M.D

and horse owner.

03 Jul 2012 11:14 AM
Karen in Texas

Footlick---I've never heard of humans having bleeding/hemorrhage within the lungs in the absence of some other disease process. However, since humans are two-legged, upright beings, they (we) would be less prone to develop such a condition as EIPH because of our very different anatomical structure. Horses are 4-legged, obviously, and their chest and abdominal organs are arranged horizontally rather than vertically as they run. The front portion of their trunk contains the heart, lungs; the back portion contains the intestines suspended by ligaments. In between is the diaphragm. When galloping there is a back-and-forth motion that causes the intestines to swing like a pendulum and hit the diaphragm, which then pushes forward squeezing the lungs against the chest wall. The tiny alveoli air spaces within the lungs, which allow oxygen to perfuse into the bloodstream (and CO2 to be exhaled) contain capillary beds to accomplish this; these tiny capillaries are ruptured with the repeated impact of the forward surging intestines. As the capillaries rupture, the bleeding ensues. Rising blood pressure contributes to the problem. Lasix removes fluids and reduces blood pressure in both humans and horses (and other mammals), but humans run in an upright position, unlike equines. I do not advocate the use of Lasix in horses, really, but believe the answer lies in further medical research.

03 Jul 2012 12:02 PM
an ole railbird

 am i wrong in believing that nose bleeds in  children are the same as a horse bleeding??  i dont guess i ever researched it. but i always believed it was so.  

   "an ole railbird"

03 Jul 2012 12:15 PM


Very cute, but as usual, it misses the mark, and you miss the point.

Everything I cited had been previously documented. No "proof" was required on my part-it was, and is there for all to see. And that's the whole point- Where is the proof/evidence to refute it? Instead of merely offering opinions, how about doing some reading and research? Perhaps then you might provide us with something constructive.  

03 Jul 2012 2:23 PM

Thank you for such an informative article, Steve.  You could re-write the phone book and I'd love to read it...truly.  

Giving an athlete pain-masking drugs is a double-edged sword.  Yes, you don't want them to suffer.  How can that be wrong? However, the pain is nature's way of saying something is wrong.  Ignoring it is like sitting on a ticking time bomb and flies in the face of all common sense.

Giving an athlete drugs like furosemide is interesting to me.  A diuretic is meant to reduce fluid volume.  My mom, who has very bad arthritic knees, takes it (for another condition) and she notices that her knee pain is doubled.  That is because the fluid in the joints/cartilage is reduced and the knee bones are rubbing without that cushion.  Is it not possible this could also be the case with horses?  I wonder if there are studies out there on this...and that's why you mostly see horses run on BOTH bute and salix.  You may be helping the pulmonary bleeding - but I wonder if the cure is worse for the animal!

I think regulation on a national level is critical.  Perhaps stricter requirements could be put into place on determining of a horse needs certain drugs.  We need to push towards the goal of improving racing's image while we are improving the health and durability of the breed.  If there are no bettors/fans...then who is left to care if the horses are sound?  Racing will have flatlined.

03 Jul 2012 3:27 PM

In reference to the comment about Man O' War being a "hophead", IF that were the case, he lived to be 30 years old, good health, no break downs, the greatest sire of all time, hard to believe a drugged up horse came away so well. No adverse affects, not one. Gee, looks like Man O' War could be the poster pony for why horses should use opiates. I'm not implying anyone is a liar, but I'll never be convinced that Big Red's greatness came by way of drugs. Perhaps the "old timers" in the barns were hitting the bottle a bit too much.

03 Jul 2012 9:35 PM

Great article Steve!  From what I have read on the history of racing, drugs have always been used and in my opinion things are MUCH better today!  There will always be those who try to cheat in all things so I don't know that already illegal medications will ever go away.  I am strongly of the opinion that Bute should NOT be allowed on race day.  If a horse is sore give it Bute and take it out of training until it is better then resume when it no longer needs it.  As for Lasix, I would rather see a horse have it than have the horse bleed.  However I think it should be known that the horse is a bleeder before administration - don't just give it to EVERY horse regardless.  And I do not agree that it is "performance enhancing" except for the fact that if a horse normally bleeds and with the medication he does not bleed - then of course his performance will be better!!! That is a given and does not fall under "performance enhancing" in the traditional sense in my opinion.  

03 Jul 2012 9:47 PM

Thanks for a great piece....I remember how queazy some folks were becoming approaching the '68 Belmont...could Forward Pass be considered a Triple Crown winner with his non-win, win in Ky ? My guess is that the powers and players were relieved that Stage Door Johnny ran to the rescue

03 Jul 2012 11:38 PM

Great article, Steve, as always! I am in total agreement with "marapace." I am a life-long lover and owner of Thoroughbreds. I employ mine for hunters and jumpers. ALL of the horses that I have owned have been fresh off the racetrack. To say that Bute or Lasix/Salix should be used as human athletes would use aspirin/inhaler/ etc. is redicilous! Human athletes have the "choice" to compete and the "choice" to use or not use medications. How many times have we seem human athletes compete with or too soon after an injury? Furthering damaging themselves and/or performing poorly due to pain and restrictions from the initial injury. Medications should not be allowed, end of story. Train better and harder and you will have better TB's! Furthermore, and I know people will hate me for this. 2 year old horses shouldn't be all! When they're two the "breaking" should begin. There is so much evidence that their muscles and bones aren't close to being fully developed. They may not break down, however, more times than not you're going to have a TB come off the track with leg problems. End rant!

04 Jul 2012 12:38 AM
an ole railbird

 bute has been around since 1957.

   in that length of time, there should have been something invented ,that would work better than bute

i think that, the very fact that nothing else has been invented, to improve on ,(bute), speaks loud that it is working to the vets satifaction.

i contend that there is more harm in feeding treats loaded with sugar & other sweetners, is more harmiful to horses, than being given bute, for areasonable amount of time.

  i have resqued 2 different horses from so called," resque farms", that had all the symptoms of being diabetic from being fed high sugar diets. we should quit flogging this dead horse, (bute & lasix) & go on to more important things that havent had the research done on them..  it either needs to be proven ,that bute &lasix is harmful or the subject needs to be dropped. right now , YOU HAVENT PROVEN A THING. get over it & lets gone to something more construtive.

 have a nice day, "an ole railbird"

04 Jul 2012 8:23 AM

So because horse racing has long been accustomed to a culture of hopping and secrecy--and the proportions of animals racing in this way is not here discussed--it legitimates the practice? Just test better?

So what that horses have been hopped in the past? People will continue to find performance enhancers. There has to be strenous efforts to secure a level playing field in a sport. Sure people will try loading the dice, but to just throw our hands up to such behavior or treat it as a fun and sentimental part of the sport's cultureis silly. We're supposedly having this debate about drugs that we administer to support equine health, which is not the column discusses.

Horse racing will survive by finding people willing to take an interest in it, whether as investors/sportsmen, professionals, or fans and punters. To try to entice all of these people into the sport we have to deal with the fact that many who are not yet interested in the sport will have an opinion about it that is shaped first and foremost by perceptions of cruelty. Lots of folks think horse racing is cruel to begin with. Try winning an argument with a non-initiate that starts with the notion that in order to race a horse humanely, you have to drug it. The argument confirms rather than refutes the notion that the sport is a cruel practice. Wow, that looks like success.

04 Jul 2012 11:39 AM

Hey chums time for rehab for the US and the drug use,

04 Jul 2012 12:00 PM
Pat Lee

Would it be possible to hire "an old railbird" to write for the Bloodhorse?  That old bird has a ton of sense and experience.  

04 Jul 2012 2:56 PM
Karen in Texas

I rather like "an old railbird", too, Pat Lee.

04 Jul 2012 4:24 PM
Needler in Virginia

Agree completely with marapace and egill. As long as there has been racing there have been owners and/or trainers who it with caffeine, cocaine, milkshakes, sponging, bute, salix/lasix, cobroxin, frog toxins or whatever the newest drug of choice is called. People cheat. Honorable people are responsible for keeping the dishonorable ones from cheating. The only way to do that is to test before and after a race, during training, while the horse is sleeping, eating, peeing, bathing, being hotwalked and groomed, and standing in the stall doing nothing. Racing has found ways to cheat since forever; racing will continue to make excuses for cheating until racing is banned forever. And who will be pleased by that? Not me, certainly; there's absolutely NOTHING like a golden afternoon at Keeneland or Saratoga. But that's what's coming, folks. The perception, if not the actuality, of honesty MUST be presented by racing and the only way to do that is by banning drugs. And to the poster who said something like "if the horse has a headache he should be allowed an aspirin, just as a person would" --- it's NOT the same thing and it's disingenuous to say it is. Get a grip. Horses are not drugged to make a headache go away; horses are drugged to make 'em run faster and not know that they hurt.

Again, cheers to Steve, cheers and very safe trips to the horses (ALL of 'em), and the people are gonna have to find their own.

04 Jul 2012 6:02 PM
Mike Relva


Pretty much agree with your comment. I, too am tired of the overused phrase"for the good of the horse" when many don't have their interest first. Yes, Zenyatta's connections are a very rare breed.

05 Jul 2012 10:35 AM
an ole railbird

 is there a support group for "complusive bloggers". i find it harder ,every day to leave this blog& go tend to my business. i may soon be seeking a "bloggers animous".

  i want to shoot a couple of theorys down. there are so many misconceptions about bleeding, that it is hard for even experinced horseman to understand. & that is to say that, most people who havent hand "hands on experince", simply ,cant wrap their "animal loving minds" around what really occurs ,when a horse bleeds.

   you will go a long ways to find a nonfit horse that bleeds. a horse that not fit rarely has the strength, to excert himself enough to force the capularys in the lungs to rupture.. therefor the theory of more training without lasix, is actully reverse to being an answer to elimanating bleeding.

1 commenter suggested studying bleeding in wild mustangs. i feel safe in saying that pulmoary bleeding in wild horses is non excisting, due to the strength factor.

 before scoping & lasix, we ran lots of horses, thinking that they were distance challenged. when in fact they were choking on their on blood. but few ever coughed up enough blood to give away the secret that they bled.

i offer this comparsiom. a range OR pasture fed horse. sans any grain in his diet. to a well kept grain fed horse. ( this is 1 of the examples,that our cowboy & ranch type work teaches us.)  yyou can catch a range horse,out of the pasture, that has no condictioning at all. you can ride him to total exhaustion in a matter of 2 or 3 hours, then pull your saddle of him &turn him aloose& leave him alone. he will walk himself out& in a matter of a few hours, you wont be able to tell that he has been ridden at all.   BUT do that to a well cared for grain fed horse, and you will kill him in his tracks. the grain fed horse is so much stronger, that he will keep going past the danger point, before either horse, or rider can see whats happened.   the range fed horse wont have enough strength to hurt himself& he will give out& quit.

   this is the same in compareing bleeders & non bleeders.  un fit horses, slow, lazy horses , seldom bleed. because they dont put out the effort, to rupture any thing to make a bleeder.

 our modern thorobred horse has become so domsticated & atuned to his masters, that they will leave it all on the racetrack & in turn will hurt themselves.

    i dont want to sound like a "know it all". i dont know it all& thanks to these blogs, i can learn something new every day. but when i read an "assumption, that comes from a inexperinced commentor, i cant help it. i am compelled to partisipate in the discussion.

have a nice day. "an ole railbird"

05 Jul 2012 11:49 AM

Thank you, egill and marapace. I also have been a TB owner for many years, participating in polo and hunting/jumping. These sports are strenuous as well, but I have never had a horse perform with any drugs at all. Just as NSAIDS should not be used regularly in humans due to side effects, the same is true of horses. Temporary use to support a healing injury is fairly common, but regular use can contribute to liver damage. And none of my horses, despite the fact that all of them were OTTB's, ever bled.

Thanks again, Steve, for the illuminating article.

05 Jul 2012 1:44 PM
Bill Two

Here's a link to another interesting account of horse drugging in the early twentieth century:

H.G. Bedwell, also known as "Hard Guy" Bedwell is the focus of the article.  Allegedly he dosed Sir Barton with cocaine on occasion. He admitted giving small doses of arsenic to his horses as he believed it produced a beneficial effect.  Wow.

05 Jul 2012 3:56 PM

Hey Chums dont hang out with the druggies,the sharks are loose

05 Jul 2012 5:04 PM
Michael J Arndt

i wonder if our great racing writers arent akin to the great baseball writers with regards to their myopia when viewing the sport the love and report on.

05 Jul 2012 9:52 PM

Horses race all over the world without any race day medication.  Here in the USA, we have used medications routinely for so long, the horses now depend on medication in order to run.

When horses develop their aches and pains, do we give them the time to rest and heal?  No!  We medicate them and run them anyway.  It's developed into a vicious cycle.

AS to bleeding, there is a concensus that part of the cause is the impact, and bleeding occurs more often in dirt horses than in turf runners...which supports the impact theory.  Again, horses race all over the world without any medication.  How do they do it?  Why can't we?  There are veterinarians who believe that the bleeding is actually secondary to poor nutrition, and that proper diet and a holistic approach might be more of an advantage than meds.

For those who believe it's inhumane to race horses without medication, it's my opinion that it's more inhumane to send a horse out to race if he is not fit enough to do so.  The mere fact that he cannot do so without being medicated, tells me he is not fit to race.  But no one seems to want to allow a horse the time he might need to heal and become fit.

For myself, I feel that race day meds are nothing more that a short cut for trainers.  It has nothing to do with being humane, and everything to do with $$.

It's very sad to consider that in all the debate, we have lost the ethic of doing what is best for the horse...we are crippling the breed, and shaming his Arabian, endurance-tested ancestor.

In America, the leading drug pushers are drug companies who bombard us every day with their TV ads.  We drug ourselves, we drug our children, why not races horses?  My question is Why are we such failures that we need constant medication to survive?

06 Jul 2012 10:21 AM

why is it that the industry is in such denial! There's a big problem and everyones afraid to do anything about it! These things they bring up are light drugs compared to todays world and all the hard core drugs!  when they  put some trainers in california in detention barns for viliations they go fro a 25% to a 5% and less once there cleared from the barn back to 25% or more!!!!  Hello racing boards think you can figure this one out?????????The only winners in this business is the vets and the horses take the blunt of there destruction!!!!  If you notice all the great trainers you guys talk about have owners with deep pockets and can afford what ever bill the vet sends him no questions asked!

07 Jul 2012 11:27 PM

Horses race all over the world without any race day medication.  Here in the USA, we have used medications routinely for so long, the horses now depend on medication in order to run.

For those who believe it's inhumane to race horses without medication, it's my opinion that it's more inhumane to send a horse out to race if he is not fit enough to do so.  The mere fact that he cannot do so without being medicated, tells me he is not fit to race.  But no one seems to want to allow a horse the time he might need to heal and become fit.

For myself, I feel that race day meds are nothing more than a short cut for trainers.  It has nothing to do with being humane, and everything to do with $$ as in “time is money”.

It's very sad to consider that in all the debate, we have lost the ethic of doing what is best for the horse...we are crippling the breed, and shaming his Arabian, endurance-tested ancestor.

08 Jul 2012 7:48 PM
s delight

Dear Slew July 8, 2012:  Well, at least you have made it plain that you know nothing about horse racing.

11 Jul 2012 8:36 PM

s delight:  Please explain yourself.  You haven't said anything to disprove my assertions.

12 Jul 2012 9:07 AM

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