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USTA Reiterates Its Pro-Lasix Position

Published: November 26, 2019 1:30 pm ET

Last Comment: November 27, 2019 12:21 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On Tuesday, November 26, the United States Trotting Association released a statement in regard to the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council’s recommendation to eliminate race-day lasix for two-year-olds and in stakes.

The contents of the USTA release appear below.

Monday (Nov. 25), the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council approved a recommendation by a vote of six to two to eliminate the use of furosemide (lasix) on race day for two-year-olds beginning in 2020 and in all stakes races starting in 2021.

USTA Executive Vice President Mike Tanner attended that meeting in Lexington, Ky. prepared to read a statement supporting the U.S. Trotting Association’s position favouring the use of race-day lasix, which declares that the only determining factor in the decision should be what is best for the health and welfare of the horse.

Unfortunately, it was announced at the meeting that external input would not be permitted, and that all discussion would be limited to Drug Research Council members. One member, Dr. Andy Roberts, a veterinarian whose practice treats both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, vehemently protested this decision, urging his colleagues to open the floor for comments, but to no avail.

On Dec. 9 at their next monthly meeting, the Kentucky State Horse Racing Commission will consider the recommendation from the KEDRC. Adoption of those rules will apply to all horse racing in the state of Kentucky.

If that happens, Kentucky will be making a big mistake.

In 2012, at the annual USTA Board of Directors’ meeting the policy supporting the use of race-day lasix was determined and announced after a detailed presentation by Dr. Alice Stack of Michigan State University, an expert on Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH) in horses, who demonstrated the harm caused by EIPH and how the therapeutic use of lasix not only helps bleeders but also prevents bleeding before it starts.

And the 2015 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Consensus Statement made the strong recommendation that EIPH be considered as a disease rather than a ‘condition.’

Given the stress experienced by equine athletes during competition, EIPH is estimated to occur in excess of 90 per cent of all racehorses. But it is not exclusive to just horses. Studies have shown that while EIPH occurs most commonly in racehorses, it also happens in healthy human athletes, other competing breeds of horses and in racing greyhounds.

EIPH causes blood vessels to rupture and hemorrhage producing scar tissue and extremely harmful effects on lung capacity, which accumulates and worsens with each bleeding event progressively damaging a horse’s lungs in proportion to its lifetime starts and training history.

The use of lasix has for quite some time been an accepted, therapeutic resource for the horse industry in combating the effects of EIPH.

Absent the development and introduction of a better method to mitigate the onset and effect of EIPH, the USTA believes that the most humane way to address this problem is through the continued approval of the race-day administration of lasix for all Standardbred horses who require it, under controlled conditions and by a licensed veterinarian.

Several respected, national veterinary groups, among them the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the North American Association of Equine Practitioners (NAARV), have independently articulated similar positions supporting the humane method to treat EIPH and protect the horse.

And who knows more about what is medically beneficial to the health and welfare of the horses than the veterinarians who care for thousands of them every day at racetracks and training centres across the country?

The USTA recognizes the importance of optics, especially when navigating the politically-charged landscape that exists today due to the past year’s well-publicized spate of Thoroughbred catastrophic breakdowns and the attention it brought from legislators, the media and anti-horseracing advocates like PETA.

We understand that, but thankfully catastrophic breakdowns rarely happen in harness racing; it is a statistical anomaly compared to those in Thoroughbred racing.

And the fact is that the use of race-day lasix has no correlation whatsoever to horses suffering catastrophic breakdowns.

Focusing on the negative attention brought by the Thoroughbred breakdowns across the country, without even having accurately determined the causes of those, with a reaction to deprive the horses of a valuable, preventative, equine approved and tested, therapeutic treatment for a disease, is misguided and will result in increased injuries to Standardbred racehorses and endanger the welfare of our different breed of horse.

It is an attempt at a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to a problem specific to one side of the industry — and that side isn’t ours.

Doing what is right for the horse should always be the first and most important priority.

Accordingly, the USTA urges the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to reject the KEDRC’s recommendation when the Commission considers it next month. It is bad for harness racing and bad for Standardbred racehorses.


November 27, 2019 - 12:21 amIt’s time someone took a

Angus Gillis SAID...

It’s time someone took a stance on Lasix for young horses. It has been allowed for too long under the guise of helping horses. It just masks a bleeding problem which has been perpetuated long enough. We have been led down the garden path toward the thoroughbred way of thinking where we have stallions who have raced on Lasix siring horses that need Lasix. We have weakened the breed. Eliminate it and let’s breed and race a better horse. If your horse bleeds when he races rest him and let him heal or get another horse. It has only weakened the breed!

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