The Horse

DEC 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 39 of 51

40 December 2018 The Horse | the House of Representatives. Like earlier legislative efforts, the new version offered a federally mandated solution to racing's drug problems through the formation of an oversight agency and the institution of uniform medication rules across all racing jurisdictions. A Congressional Sub- committee hearing, a preliminary step in the legislative process, was held on June 22, 2018, but no consensus has emerged. The most divisive question, and the issue most likely to stall the bill before it reaches a vote, involves race-day admin- istration of Lasix, a popular medication used to prevent or reduce the effects of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, or "bleeding"). The current version of the Act would eliminate Lasix adminis- tration on race day, and finding an accept- able middle ground is proving difficult. A much touted benefit of centralized regulation is rules uniformity across the country. Whether this will be successful in solving the problem depends on how you feel about drug testing thresholds. A threshold is the maximum level of a prohibited medication that is assumed to have no effect on a horse's performance, and the current jigsaw puzzle of regula- tions might have different thresholds for the same drug from state to state. A concentration below the threshold is not considered a drug "positive." The most restrictive type of regulation is zero toler- ance, with no thresholds and a positive result for the smallest trace of any pro- hibited medication in a horse's system. Proponents of a total ban on race-day medication include the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance (WHOA), a national organization supported by a number of leading organi- zations and individuals. While everyone wants a level and safe playing field, there are disagreements about how to get there. Many horse- men's groups and veterinary associations strongly oppose a race-day ban on Lasix and argue that the legislation would cre- ate an equine welfare crisis by eliminating an effective treatment for a common prob- lem. For the Act's many supporters, the legislation's intent is to protect the sport's integrity and to reverse much of the pub- lic's low opinion about horse racing. Vets on the Ground Regulation of prohibited substances in both racing and showing is a continuum: The policymakers who write the rules are at one end; the enforcers who collect and test samples and administer the regula- tions are the middlemen; and at the end are the practicing veterinarians who often are far removed from the rule-makers but still bound by the regulations. Jeff Blea, DVM, is a partner in Von- Bluecher, Blea, Hunkin Inc. Equine Medicine and Surgery, a racetrack practice in Sierra Madre, California. He also is a former president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an organization that opposes the Horserac- ing Integrity Act. Blea supports the idea of uniform medication rules, one of the Act's goals, but he isn't convinced that federal intervention is the answer. "Uniformity in the rules is what we need," Blea says, "and we're getting there. We have a program in place, and we're already marching toward uniformity." Racing commissions have adopted the RMTC's National Uniform Medication Policy (NUMP) in full in 11 states and in part in 21 other jurisdictions. One set of rules, applied in every racing state, will help eliminate confusion for veterinarians when horses ship from track to track. "The better horses will run in races all across the country," Blea says. "And part of a veterinarian's responsibility is to know the rules. If one of our horses is going to a state that has adopted the uniform rules, I already know that the rules there will be the same as mine here in California. But if not, I might have to call someone in that state and ask about the rules." The biggest challenge moving forward, he adds, is better public relations for a program that already is working. "We have to communicate to the public that things are improving," he says. "So many things have come about in the last few years. We need to tell the world what we're doing and why we're doing it and then keep telling them." On the other side of the country, on Long Island, Sara Langsam, VMD, is a partner in the New York division of TFB Equine. She divides her time between New York and Kentucky and has experi- ence navigating the regulatory waters from state to state. The NUMP has helped bring a measure of consistency to regula- tions in many jurisdictions, Langsam says, but the process is "going more slowly than anyone imagined." (Inconsis- tent regulations typically are not an issue for sport horse competitors, who in most disciplines compete under the same rules no matter where the competition is held.) "The inconsistencies in the rules can be frustrating," she adds, "especially with clients who are racing in several states. The different regulations affect a lot of the day-to-day work you do. You have to know what the expectations of the owner and trainer are for a horse. Is there a possibility that the horse will be racing anytime soon, and where? You have to do your homework, so you can advise your clients properly and professionally to avoid a positive test." About federal intervention in drug reg- ulation, Langsam is guardedly optimistic. "It's okay if it brings uniformity," she says, "but it has to be done properly, and we need good voices to speak for our in- dustry. The boots on the ground, the peo- ple who live it every day, we understand our industry better than anyone else. And we know it's a pretty clean sport." A persistent worry across the industry is that prohibited substances might be used to supplant good horsemanship. "There are always bad actors out there who reach for something in a bottle or tube to improve performance, rather than focusing on the training, fitness, and wel- fare of the horse," Schumacher says. "But we emphasize that the vast majority of our trainers and members strive to comply with our drugs and medications rules." H THE MEDICATION CONUNDRUM Sport horse regulators enjoy more discretion in selecting horses for testing than their col- leagues in racing. AMY K. DRAGOO

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Horse - DEC 2018