Either Way on Lasix, It’s Animal Cruelty

Raceday Lasix is one of the more controversial issues in American horseracing. The critics say that the drug is but a performance-enhancer: A diuretic, Lasix helps shed water weight prior to a race – lighter equals faster – and as a system flush may also aid in concealing some of the illegal stuff. Supporters, on the other hand, call Lasix “humane”: Rapidly moving racehorses, they say, naturally bleed – from their lungs – “exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.” Prominent trainer Dale Romans (Paulick Report, 9/13/12): “Racing causes [EIPH] in 100% of horses. …one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.” Adds colleague Rick Violette (DRF, 8/11/11): “Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without [Lasix] is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

download (6)

That raceday Lasix – by the way, a uniquely North American thing – is primarily used to make horses faster is a pretty good bet. (While not all trainers particularly like it, practically all, so as not to cede any competitive ground, use it.) But what if the Romans/Violette crowd is also correct – that pulmonary bleeding is inherent in a racing-horse? Translated, this would mean that the “sport’s” fundamental physical action universally causes some level of pain or suffering. Of what other basic sporting motion can this be said? Throwing a baseball? Swinging a golf club? Kicking a soccer ball? If not for the deadly seriousness of it all, these people would be laughable.

download (3)

14 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Patrick, excellent post. Oh, and I have had pro-racing folks say that their horses run “clean” even though it is easy to ascertain that their horses are running on Lasix (Equibase). Not all states require bute to be listed in the charts but all states do require that Lasix be listed. It has always bewildered me that these people, whose horses are “loved” and are just like “family”, can’t seem to admit that Lasix and bute are BOTH drugs…yes, BOTH are drugs. Are they in denial, or are they delusional, or are they just plain dumb? I have no idea but, for some reason, these folks seem to struggle with the truth…the elusive truth. Remember the motto of the racing industry…drug them and run them. So very sad….

  2. Horses on Lasix can become dehydrated, heat stroke or the combination of both.
    Dehydration is severe fluid loss through sweating and urination. If the water is not replenished sodium and potassium rise to toxic levels resulting in cramping, nausea, headache and finally a coma or even death. For every 1 hour of walking in the heat of the day, a human can sweat off 1 to 2 quarts of fluid. Imagine how much a horse will sweat off in an hour of walking, training, racing. Symptoms are excessive thirst, dizziness, nausea and they will lose strength, pass out and the little fluid that is left in their body is being diverted to their vital organs. If only the horse could tell you how thirsty he is, if only the owner, trainer, or jockey would lead their horse to water, he would drink. How many more youngsters have to die before its realized that Lasix will lead to dehydration, high sodium and potassium levels can cause cramping of the muscles, and what is the heart? The largest muscle in your body, hence heart attack, death. This is a death sentence to your Thoroughbred racing horse, hence your cash cow. As Patrick would say, this is horseracing.

    When a horse becomes overheated, it is dehydrated, and may have a heat stroke or the combination of both. Dehydration is severe fluid loss through sweating and urination. If the water is not replenished sodium and potassium rise to toxic levels resulting in cramping, nausea, headache and finally a coma. For every 1 hour of walking in the heat of the day, a human can sweat off 1 to 2 quarts of fluid. Imagine how much a horse will sweat off in an hour of walking, training, showing. Symptoms are excessive thirst, dizziness, nausea and they will lose strength, pass out and the little fluid that is left in their body is being diverted to their vital organs. If only the horse could tell you how thirsty he is, if only the owner, trainer, rider would lead their horse to water, he would drink. How many more youngsters have to die before its realized that the heat, stress, pain being inflicted onto the horse will lead to dehydration, high sodium and potassium levels can cause cramping of the muscles, and what is the heart? The largest muscle in your body, hence heart attack, death.

    NOVEMBER 6, 2013

    “Lasix begets a plethora of additional drug use. Wherever pre-race Lasix is permitted, additional drugs are administered to most all of the diuretically-infused racing horses by their trainers and attending veterinarians. Lasix allows and encourages a lot of drug use. It legitimized the stage for the medication mentality that has haunted racing in recent years with all the notable breakdowns, sudden deaths and wrecks.”

    “Lasix or Salix is furosemide, a potent diuretic that dilutes the urine and lowers the pulmonary blood pressure. The drug alters the electrolyte balance of racing horses and makes them vulnerable to heat stroke and metabolic dysfunction. As well, chronic diuretic use interferes with locomotory abilities required to run biomechanically sound by altering cardiac function, muscle function, nerve function, and most every other physiologic function.”

    “Diuretics weaken horses. These days there is little doubt that pharmaceutically weakened horses are more vulnerable to breaking down. It is not surprising that Lasix jurisdictions have more breakdowns than drug-free jurisdictions. We should have known. Now we know.”

    Lasix Is Bad for Horses

    With the Lasix ban for juveniles ending with this past weekend’s Breeders’ Cup and a trend toward keeping the drug raceday legal in the U.S., I thought it appropriate to revisit these words written by equine veterinarian Sid Gustafson in The New York Times a couple years back (10/28/11). At the time, Gustafson believed that Lasix was on its way out.

    “The only ones who benefit from racehorses being medicated on raceday are the attending veterinarians and, subsequently, the veterinary surgeons. …the science continues to demonstrate that chronic use of raceday drugs degrades the quality and safety of racing while impoverishing the welfare of racehorses. Raceday medications increase the breakdown rate.”

    “Lasix begets a plethora of additional drug use. Wherever pre-race Lasix is permitted, additional drugs are administered to most all of the diuretically-infused racing horses by their trainers and attending veterinarians. Lasix allows and encourages a lot of drug use. It legitimized the stage for the medication mentality that has haunted racing in recent years with all the notable breakdowns, sudden deaths and wrecks.”

    “Lasix or Salix is furosemide, a potent diuretic that dilutes the urine and lowers the pulmonary blood pressure. The drug alters the electrolyte balance of racing horses and makes them vulnerable to heat stroke and metabolic dysfunction. As well, chronic diuretic use interferes with locomotory abilities required to run biomechanically sound by altering cardiac function, muscle function, nerve function, and most every other physiologic function.”

    “Diuretics weaken horses. These days there is little doubt that pharmaceutically weakened horses are more vulnerable to breaking down. It is not surprising that Lasix jurisdictions have more breakdowns than drug-free jurisdictions. We should have known. Now we know.”

    “In two years, American racing jurisdictions are scheduled to join the rest of the racing horse world and eliminate Lasix in the United States and Canada. …Good riddance to Lasix and all the drug use it has encouraged and facilitated. Good riddance to Lasix and all the electrolyte imbalances, metabolic dysfunctions, shortened careers, breakdowns and weaknesses the drug has caused…”

  3. Absolutely, Patrick. And to think, the bleeders that DO manifest their EIPH with epistaxis are a very small percentage – one study as low as 0.15% but at most, only 1% to 2%! So when your weekly casualties lists have several horses’ names listed as returning with “nose bleeds”, we can be certain that there were more that bled, as well! – and bled through their performance-enhancing Lasix!

  4. Thank you Patrick for all that you and your followers are doing to expose the crimes in the “sport” of horse racing.

  5. Patrick, I hope you don’t mind that I recycled this excellent article.
    I really think it needs to be revisited again.
    Please indulge me and I’m so sorry that this article is so long, but I just couldn’t shorten it up.
    I’m re posting this amazing article, containing facts, about Lasix because a very good friend of mine passed away last week.
    His name is RUDY TURCOTTE.
    Rudy was always under the shadow of his famous brother who rode Secretariat Ron Turcotte.
    However, Rudy was just as talented, but also very OUTSPOKEN when he saw things going awry within the industry.
    I guess you can say that Ron and I had something in common.
    Later in years (long after his riding was done) he came down to Florida and lived with us on our farm in Ocala.
    He was an incredible horse person.
    It was during our talks around 5 AM in the barn, sipping coffee, sitting on a bale of hay, while the horses were chomping on their breakfast oats, that he told me some stories that should have been a warning sign to me, to the industry and to anybody who cares about racehorses.
    On May 5, 1978 Rudy was riding a mare called EASY EDITH.
    He was vying for the lead when Easy Edith snapped her front leg-off and went down.
    It caused a chain reaction killing a jockey called Robert Pineda, seriously injuring another and Rudy was in the hospital with a broken collarbone.
    Here’s where things begin to get ugly and this is a pattern by members of this industry to shut up outspoken people like Rudy and me.
    According to Rudy, he had some reporters come right to his bedside to get his side of the story.
    He didn’t mince any words and flat out said “this new dope called Lasix that everybody is starting to use is poison for the horses.”
    He told the reporters that the horse racing industry must get a handle on this or there will be lots of racehorses dying and lots of jockeys dying as well.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1978/05/17/marginal-horsemen-seen-forced-into-giving-drugs/db537004-1a52-4601-8057-38b523bbd87a/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2e215f536c69

    Please be advised that Rudy claims that many of the articles published at the time excluded what he said under pressure from powerful people, but that this was the most reflective article that was posted minus the details.
    In fact, he was told if he wanted to save his riding “career” that he had to claim that he was under the influence of pain medication and that when he said these statements they were mostly untrue – no kidding!

    He went on to tell me that there were immediate repercussions from his statements with the majority of pressure coming from the HBPA (Horseman groups).
    They fervently defended the trainer while inadvertently defending the use of Lasix in racehorses.
    After all, they have a vested interest in being able to shove a needle into a racehorses jugular vein 4 hours prior to racing when they supposedly have a heavy hand into the drug testing barn/process while collecting billions in wagering profits via the Interstate Horse Wagering Act.

    Nevertheless, this was a turning point for Rudy.
    It’s no secret, and his family acknowledges, that Rudy had a lifetime battle with alcoholism.
    That said, Rudy told me that when he saw this business for what it really was it ignited his alcoholism.
    I believed him then and I believe him now.

    Rudy gave me a first hand account on how he became acquainted with Lasix.
    It was when he rode his first “lasix” horse, but didn’t know that the horse was on Lasix.
    He describes the horse as breathing really weird during the race.
    He felt the sweat and heat actually coming off of the horses lungs nothing he had ever seen in a horse before and he rode plenty of horses Lasix-free.
    Anyways, he kept riding, and he won.
    Later, when visiting the barn, he said “hey, something is up with the breathing in that horse.”
    Evidently, the trainer told him to “shut up – you won didn’t you?”
    He found out that the horse was on Lasix.
    He says that he knew, right then and there, that the drug was bad for horses, and he even went so far to claim that he didn’t need to be a vet to know that this dope is going to have ill effects on racehorses for years to come.’

    He tried to rally the jockey’s union into total disclosure of all drugs, being putting into racehorses, prior to a race for both the racehorses safety and the jockey’s.
    Again, the powerful HBPA, horseman’s groups, fought back hard, and we know where this ended.

    Evidently, his outspoken approach caused a riff with his brother Ron who decided to keep silent, maintain his riding career and didn’t join the outcry to have this immediately addressed – according to Rudy.
    So Ron was getting plenty of mounts and always did after Secretariat’s Triple Crown win.

    2 months later after Rudy’s spill, on July 13, 1978, brother Ron Turcotte went down and was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.
    He never once mentioned or addressed the use of Lasix or drugs in racehorses always claiming that his horse was simply thrown off balance out of the starting gate.

    In the barn that morning on my farm in Ocala, Rudy made the claim that Lasix is ruining the bone integrity of racehorses, and he also believed that it’s being passed on to the foals.
    He said “there’s no doubt in my mind and Gina it’s going to get worse.”

    Rudy, wherever you are, you are 100% right.
    I hope that there are horses there in heaven because I know you loved them which is why you left the business knowing the reality of what happens to them.

    • Gina – Interesting that you happened to bring this up today. There are 2 articles in Paulick report today that pertain to this. One is that a few trainers are running successfully lasix free, and the other pertains to an increase last year in racing deaths in the state of Kentucky. The death rate article states that they noted horses are dying younger. DUH. Is anyone shocked at this? But they also admitted that it is possibly due to bone depletion in babies because of drugs-Biphosphantes- being administered to them. Expect this trend to continue, in every state.

    • Unfortunately we can`t read the Washington Post archived article because of their paywall which probably means others can`t read also. We remember when Bute first came into use at our local track in the late 70`s and of the many pills horse people would tube down a horses throat. We were appalled at the attempts to cover up a horses soreness from our local tracks hard surface.

      • You don’t really need to read it Fred and Joan because I pretty much summarized the important aspects of the article and the horrific effects.
        However, it’s cross-posted on The Tuesday Horse with no wall if you care to read it.

  6. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Peggy.
    I will check out the articles.
    You know that facts matter and that Patrick is meticulous at using facts on this site.
    That said, when you hear these things from jockeys that rode in the days prior to all this rampant drug use they all say the same thing: they are riding a different horse that can’t feel their pain, doesn’t slow down like a natural horse would to protect itself, and just literally drops in the dirt.
    I’ve ridden all my life, and I continue to pleasure ride and a horse that is natural, not on dope, will always tell you if its sore and/or you can feel it.
    What’s going on in horse racing today is shameful – its blatant animal cruelty.

    I found an excellent factual reference article quoting Rudy Turcotte and many other jockeys who were outspoken about the rampant use of drugs in horse racing:
    https://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2012/04/

    I’m not trying to defend jockeys because they have a choice and a horse doesn’t, but It puts another perspective on it when seen from a historical past.
    At the end of the day it was the billions in profit that won over racehorse lives and human safety.
    It’s time for this business to shut down.
    It should have been shut down long ago instead of financially propping it up with taxpayers money and casino profits.

  7. One can not get Lasix except by RX . But in racing it is readily available, to the nonprofessional and in the injectable form, to boot!!!
    Surely this is unlawful.!!!!!
    The injectable form of this drug is highly potent and the only time I ever saw it used was in an
    emergency situation – that goes for humans and animals.
    Why does racing have the “power” to act as “judge and jury” in the cases of. RX drugs in the possession of, and being admiistered by, nonprofessionals ?

    For starters, where is the FDA as well as vetrinary oversight in all this??

    P.S Not only does racing have self- granted “immunity” from the most basic animal cruelty laws but it sure looks like the same applys to basic drug “laws”, too..

  8. Peggy, I read both articles on the Blood Horse yesterday.
    Mary Scollay, Chief Kentucky veterinarian conspicuously omitted the doping/vet records leading up to these catastrophic breakdowns.
    Nevertheless, she didn’t demand or subpoena (which she has the power to do) the doping records for all horses who died on their tracks.
    When a predominant portion of FACTS are missing from their conclusions than the conclusion means nothing.
    Furthermore, things will never change as they continue to protect their secret doping records, their massive death lists both on the tracks and on the slaughterhouse floor all for $2 bets.
    VILE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.