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Breakdowns - age, or training and care?

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  • Original Poster

    I just thought I'd add Gary Stevens's opinion to this. I was reading a review of his book, "The Perfect Ride", which mentioned this (note my italics): "Stevens gave us his opinions on where the sport is going. He is against race-day medications, since masking the pain allows horses who shouldn't be on the track to run endangering the lives of both the jockeys and horses. Also he observed a decline in the quality of everyday racing since he started twenty years ago, citing year-round racing and shorter racing careers for horses as major culprits. 'Where horses were once raced for their owners' enjoyment and the beauty of the sport, a great many horses are now raced just for money." Bravo, Stevens! I think he should speak out more publicly - not everyone is going to read his book. (I haven't yet, but of course I'll have to now.) First of all, I am 100% in agreement with him about race-day medications. Little more needs to be said. Secondly, it's interesting that he cites year-round racing as a problem. I guess horses who are headed down the Triple Crown trail and then are aimed for the Breeders' Cup, should be given a summer break? I forgot who it was, but a certain well-known trainer mentioned that he finds himself giving his horses middle-of-the-year "vacations" to keep them fresh for the Breeders' Cup. I guess that's the way to go, and certainly the summer is as good a time as any to give a horse a break - it's too hot to be running hard! I also agree about the short racing careers. When a bunch of super-wealthy Japanese breeders are waiting to dole out millions for your Gr. I stakes winner, it's temping to run him hard as a 2- and 3-year-old (burning out some horses who might otherwise have been very successful) to win as many races and as much money as possible before shipping him overseas before he even turns 4. This, of course, not only robs the sport (and the country, when the horse is indeed sold to foreign breeders) of long-term champions - versus 2-year wonders - but also sets up for breakdown.

    Thank you, thank you, Gary Stevens, for speaking out. I absolutely agree.


    • #22
      Well, the year round racing isn't so much about giving horses a break as it is about raising the quality of racing.

      Compare, for example, the Keeneland, Del Mar, and Saratoga meets with the Santa Anita, Belmont, and Churchill meets. The former run very short meets with extremely high quality horses. The latter run very extended meets that go on and on and have less quality horses.

      By limiting the number of races, you can raise purses, create more betting interest by having larger, compeititive fields, and have better horses racing in those races.

      One of the big problems with the Gulfstream winter meet (which is rapidly losing its best horses to the Fair Grounds) is that they have 12 races per day! That is WAY excessvie! They end up with 5 and 6 horse fields most of the times, which the bettors don't like. This causes the bettors to bet elsewhere, meaning the track ends up with less money to offer and the quality of racing declines even more. The Gulfstream meet should be shortened (run one fewer day per week) and they should have 8 races per day with maybe 9 on Saturdays. Maximum!

      "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are." M E M E N T O


      • #23
        Gulfstream had to increase the number of races because so many horses could not get in. You had to have at least 3 stars to get in the field! We'd have horses there for 4 months that would only race once.

        Thoroughbred, maybe you should focus on the politicians who rewrote the tax laws that made it economically impossible for most people to race horses for pleasure. You seem to think everyone has limitless amounts of money. Horse owners and trainers are businessmen, and very few people are in it just for the fun of it. Most people will tell you that they love horses and racing, but they can only lose so much money. Life is not fair, which you will not understand or appreciate until you get older.

        I don't see Gary Stevens refusing to ride horses that he knows are racing on bute and Lasix. If he really cared that much, he would tell the trainers he won't ride a medicated horse. And if he really believed it masked unsoundness, he would not get on the horse anyway because of the danger of serious injury to the rider (and other riders) should a horse break down during a race.
        Man plans. God laughs.


        • Original Poster

          Flash44, I don't think I should even dignify your comment with an answer. If only I had enough money to own a racehorse! I am the last person on earth who should think that everyone has limitless amounts of money, and I know first-hand that life is not at all fair. Don't think you need to tell me. But no horse business should be viewed strictly as business, because horses are animals, not machines. Some people don't seem to realize that. And when it comes to money, bute, Lasix, Banamine, Adequan, bronchial injections, joint injections, etc., surely aren't cheap. Many ailments (not all, but many aches and pains, even bleeding, according to Del Castillo) can be healed just by giving the horse a break from the stress of training, and maybe some massage for sore muscles. You can buy a TTouch or other massage manual for $15, hands are free, and grass is cheap. The holistic way is actually less costly in that sense, but there may be less to gain financially because the horse is running less often. In my opinion, a horse should be a horse, and if you can't accept that, get a race car instead.

          As for Gary Stevens, I don't know about the horses he rides. I don't know what he says or doesn't say to owners and trainers he rides for. All I know is, what he said about race-day medications is very true.


          • #25
            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Flash44:

            Thoroughbred, maybe you should focus on the politicians who rewrote the tax laws that made it economically impossible for most people to race horses for pleasure. You seem to think everyone has limitless amounts of money. Horse owners and trainers are businessmen, and very few people are in it just for the fun of it. Most people will tell you that they love horses and racing, but they can only lose so much money. Life is not fair, which you will not understand or appreciate until you get older.


            And Sadly the horses suffer for it.
            Owners/trainers can only "lose so much money" at the horses expence. The reason for medicating, over racing, masking instead of curing...money and pride(trying to save face in front of owners).

            Really we can all argue this to death (already done that!) Nothing will change!
            ~*Adult Pony Rider Clique*~


            • #26
              <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by showpony:
              Really we can all argue this to death (already done that!) Nothing will change!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>I disagree with one small part of this point...something will change, slowly over time likely, in how racehorses are handled.

              Whether it is a positive change remains to be seen.

              I used to think the world was against me. Now I know better...some of the smaller countries are neutral.
              SA Ferrana Moniet 1988-2011
              CP Trilogy 2002-2015
              My bloggity blog: Hobby Horse: Adventures of the Perpetual Newbie


              • #27
                Why exactly do you think Del Castillo is the be all and end all expert in horses? I'd rather go with the theories and practices of long time successful trainers such as Schulhofer and Wittingham. And horse do need rest, and they do get it. You rarely see them racing year round, they always get several months of rest.

                Legends and Adequan are usually injected into the muscle, most people do not like going into joints. And they are therapeutic, and nutraceuticals, not drugs.

                If you really really want to help horses and LIVE IN MARYLAND, go vote for Erlich today.
                Man plans. God laughs.


                • #28
                  Getting back to the original questions for this thread, Thoroughbred Times reported last week that a ten year study in Britain did uncover a correlation between age and breakdowns. However the conclusion was definitely not politically correct as it disclosed that horses who make their first starts at age four are twice as likely to break down as horses who begin their racing careers as 2 year-olds. Of course this conclusion only goes to reinforce other research in this area (specifically Nunamaker's and Bramlage's) showing that horses need to have their bones stressed at an early age to build the proper density to withstand racing.

                  Since the questions of training and care seemed to gravitate toward the issue of medications and the difference between "modern" versus "holistic and classical" (whatever the heck that means) horsemanship, I can only say that today's medications can be used to treat horses in a more humane way, or they can used to the point of abuse. That applies to all discplines, whether its racing or showing. A specific mention was made regarding the use of Lasix in bleeders. First, horses have been bleeding for many generations and even a small, undetected bleeding episode can be potentially life threatening to a horse. I believe that prudence calls for prevention instead of reaction. Yes, bleeders can and have run without Lasix, New York didn't allow it until the mid-'90's. However, the "holistic" prevention involved witholding water for a far more extended period of time than the current four or five hour drawing period when using Lasix (or at least that's the draw periods we use.) What is more humane for the horse-drawing him for twelve hours or more, or using Lasix and drawing for four?


                  • #29
                    On the Farm:

                    I also tend to quote those studies as proof that there is no proven direct correlation between early age racing and breakdowns because many assume that if racing just started later, breakdowns would cease to exist and all would be well. So I'm definately on that wave length with you.

                    But I also do like to point out the problem with that study that I know of. And that is that nearly every racehorse who doesn't start until four does so because they had an injury that kept them away. So, since they already were injured, they are predisposed to be injured again. This could account for why they have more injuries, because they had a history of them. I don't know if that was taken into account in the study, but it is just something to consider.

                    "We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are." M E M E N T O


                    • #30

                      The thought about the older horses being predisposed to injury was also the first thing that went through my mind, as well as the minds of most people that I have discussed the article with. I really would like to see a more detailed analysis of that study to see if our idea was addressed in it. Seems to me that if the study was a scholarly work then it would have to stand up to that type of scrutiny. Someone at another BB pointed out that the study also included hunt races on the flat and that alot of those horses do start racing at a later age. But again, I would like to see something in more detail.


                      • #31
                        The public (ie, us) needs to put more pressure on the racing industry to stop some of the abuses. I don't agree with racing two year olds.


                        • #32
                          What a can of worms!!!

                          I really am sick of the line "Life is not fair!".... The reason? Because life can be fair, but it takes you and me and the other guy to make it that way! That's why God gave us brains... There used to be a line making the rounds some time ago--"what would Jesus do?". I know what Jesus would do, and I know what I'm going to do--but what are you going to do? Unfortunately there are always going to be low lifes associated with racing because there are no good safeguards for weeding them out...

                          That said, I think the horses that race in the upper echelons of racing probably are not as much at risk at those horses racing at the bottom rungs (like Penn National, et al)... Some of the problem is just pure greed...

                          I've heard before about that study that shows that racing two year olds are good for them--I'm not convinced. But then, I don't own any racehorses. Even so I don't think I could race two year olds with a clear conscience....

                          I have Janet's book, but haven't had time to read it yet. I first heard about her back in the seventies through a blurb in Equus and thought to myself, "Hmmmmm... What a novel idea! Take care of the horse and he will take care of you. What a refreshing concept!" Up until that time I was very much against horse racing... I still think something needs to be done to lessen the number of catastrophic breakdowns--whether it's because of the horse's diet, the amount of drugs used on them, the condition of the tracks--whatever! I just hate to see these horses destroyed and people just act as if this is normal and just a part of the cost of doing business! There has to be a better way!

                          I'm on Janet's "Backyard Racehorse" site on Yahoo--have been for two or three years now. When I posted about using homeopathy on my horse and asking if anyone used it on their racehorses I was flabbergasted at the response!!!! More than one person wanted the subject of homeopathy banned on the board!!!! This is coming from people who are supposed to be upholding the use of little to no traditional medications for racehorses... I thought it would be a perfect place to explore the use of homeopathy, but was I ever mistaken! The board has gotten better over the years now that more people have joined--but in order for things to change attitudes have to change!

                          Medications have been implicated for weakening a horse's skeletal system, studies have implicated the diet TBs eat, my husband (who bets on the ponies) says it's simply a case of too much mass atop too fine of a leg... Much has been made about Salix (aka Lasix) being a performance enhancing drug, and Andy Beyer (a handicapper) has made mention of the infamous "Lasix pop" in his writings. The fact of the matter is that Salix almost definitely will enhance the horse's first or second trip, but after that the positive effects are negligible, but the downside is it can screw up the horse's electrolytes. One of the guys on the BYRH site had one of his fillies crash during training at the racetrack because of Salix use!!!

                          It would be a godsend if owners would educate themselves about what a horse needs and how to better pick a trainer--and then have the good sense to defer to the trainer's decisions! Very often an owner will insist on running a horse when the trainer knows the horse needs to rest--that's ruined more than a few great racehorses!!!

                          There is an answer out there, but it's a very complex issue and it needs to be sorted out and acted upon, which no one seems to have the time or inclination to do. One of the people from Backyard Racehorse, a former jockey, started a site on Yahoo entitled Change Racing. It was started two years ago but has been languishing so if any of you want to join that's the place to try and sort out this puzzle....
                          Have we learned nothing from the Romans???


                          • #33
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Unfortunately there are always going to be low lifes associated with racing because there are no good safeguards for weeding them out...

                            You know, it's these sorts of statements that perplex the hell out of me.

                            Are you telling me that low lifes aren't 'always' going to be associated with the other disciplines? I think there are enough scandals involving serious horse abuse in sporthorse disciplines to prove that wrong. No other discipline has the system to weed out lowlifes, either. And at the very least - in racing, you actually have to pass a test to become a trainer (or jockey, or .... etc. etc. etc.), which is more than I can say for anyone else - ANY jackass can hang out a shingle in the H/J (or eventing, or dressage ...) world & call themselves a 'trainer'.

                            The thing that irks me about all these discussions is that people act like it's JUST racing with a problem, or that the money involved in racing inherently makes it bad/corrupt/whatever. Yes, it's a business with a lot of money - but so is the rest of the horseworld (referring to the upper echelons here). People aren't spending $500,000 to buy little Suzy a top pony for fun & to trailride - they're spending that much money to try & ensure that Mr. Pony will do his job, and pack little Suzy around to blue ribbons at the biggest shows. And THAT doesn't have an effect? It's going to be ok if the half million dollar pony starts bucking little Suzy off during the hack?

                            There's all sorts of questionable practices all over the place - doesn't matter the discipline. Yes, they start 'em early with the TBs, and have a problem with that all you want to, personal opinion & all - but don't act like racing is the bastard stepchild of the rest of the horseworld. I've seen things that made my hair stand up on end in the show world, too.

                            I've said this before, but I think it has a lot to do with how our culture treats animals in general. They're DISPOSABLE to a lot of people. Plain & simple. Dogs, cats, horses, whatever. I mean, we have people who think that watching two dogs tear each other to pieces is entertainment, people who think that barbequeing live kittens is fun, and some people who are just too plain stupid to realize that domesticated animals can't just fend for themselves & need human help to survive & thrive. Are there people in racing who think the horses are essentially disposable, or just dollar signs on hooves? Yes. But it's not just limited to racing, it's all over the horseworld. At least racing is trying to do something about the problems in their systems - can't say the same for some of the other disciplines.


                            • #34
                              As a racehorse trainer and other venues I can personally tell all of you that the majority of big name owners, breeder, and trainers do not want the health and welfare of the horse as the primary concern. If that was so than the Salix use would be banned, as it documented to be a performance enhancer and does not not stop bleeding.

                              Also the industry moguls are not willing to fund research that will prove a piece of equipment change will have a tremendous impact on eliviating breakdowns and injuries to horses and will eliviate the use of Salix.

                              Also the industry moguls are not willing to fund research that would change how the jockeys ride so that they would have less falls and thus less injuries.

                              The horse racing industry treats its horses and its backside people as throw away disposable objects to attain glory and wealth.

                              All that said is about the biggies, for the little guys and gals in the racing industry appear to have a whole lot more concern for the horses and the people. And what is sad is that if the little guys and gals would unite they would have so much more say than the biggies.
                              Ask and allow, do not demand and force.


                              • #35
                                "I can personally tell all of you that the majority of big name owners, breeder, and trainers do not want the health and welfare of the horse as the primary concern. If that was so than the Salix use would be banned, as it documented to be a performance enhancer and does not not stop bleeding."

                                These statements are almost laughable. The health and welfare of the horses is the main concern of everyone I have been exposed to in the racing industry. Without a sound horse, no one profits. Where's your documentation for Salix not stopping bleeding?

                                You would be amazed at the efforts and care I have seen some "major players" - and some not so major ones - extend their horses. Unfortunately, I can't name names or tell you specific stories because of client confidentiality.

                                As for not being willing to fund research and the supposed throwaway mentality you think the major players have, that's bunk. In the past both Keeneland and FT have set up funds to allow buyers and consignors to donate a small percentage of their accounts to the Gluck Center and/or to retirement programs. This is in addition to the money Keeneland donates to many charities every year.


                                • #36
                                  THOROUGHBRED.....Janet del Castillo is a fool, something QUICKLY realized upon setting foot on her farm. After spending short *time* with her you quickly understand it's all about self-promotion & making $$$ off people who don't know any better. Cripes, those ridiculous books. Her FIRST PREDICTION was in miserable shape with bleeding rain rot and painful foundered BARE feet when I saw her. Luckily she finally died. She would lay in the hot sun unable to rise, sweating, for hours while Ms. Castillo gallavanted to lunches saying "just throw water on her if she looks too hot (while she was down).
                                  Don't believe everything you read, nor the true feelings of some that endorsed her. She's a salesperson, full stop.
                                  "Unhealthy" is breaking horses w/ "Mr. Blue Jeans" (talk about messing up a horses mind....& the real reason red filly was a nut), and other disastrous things we witnessed. My favorite was her running them "freely" in her tattered field & seeing one jump a car (parked in a corner INSIDE field) & landing in middle of junk-pile of spoked outdoor TV antennas. God, there was SO much more.
                                  Unhealthy is TRYING to work (WORK!! Not just gallop!!) horses in orange groves with wire fencing on one side and trees on the other and traffic on a busy road to cross should you get run off with by one of her fruit cakes. Even on a modern race track there are horrible morning accidents. I'm sorry, did I say she was a fool? No, a more a liability to any poor person wanting to break into racing & <hoping> she makes good sense. Gee, how easy she makes it all seem. I could go on....but you HOPEFULLY get the pic by now. She's a hazzard. She couldn't train leaves to fall off trees. She got lucky with that wonderfully classy filly First Prediction, proving even bad trainers can't keep the good ones down.
                                  Oh, and most tracks have draw times on bute & most other drugs, to the person who inquired about that.
                                  "There's a fine line between genius and madness. I've removed that line." -Super Genius/me


                                  • #37
                                    SPIRITHORSE...Janet del Castillo want's to do lunch with you.
                                    Anyone who's interested in goofy behavior, check out previous posts by our good Rev. Sheese, another baseless sales person. (Gotta love his cheesy site, where his horse jumps a tilted jump post in first sequences but it goes upright by last shot....what, jump-elfs fixed it in flight?
                                    "There's a fine line between genius and madness. I've removed that line." -Super Genius/me


                                    • #38
                                      I have to ask this question of the Janet DelCastillo fan club members: How many races has she won (or what is her win % in the last 5 years)? I have not been a fan of her backyard racehorse training methods.
                                      My experience in racing has been vast: I have worked in management, a good many years in publicity and television, and many more years in the training end of it.
                                      I have very mixed feelings about what goes on at the track in ANY department: from mutuels, to racing office to backstretch care of the horses.
                                      But, I would not want to be involved in any other industry I'm not going to get involved in any debates about the use of medication vs. holistic treatment.
                                      I do, however, believe that the majority of the folks who work with the horses: exercise riders, trainers, grooms, etc., do have a great love for the animal.
                                      It is a money business--you pay a million dollars for a yearling, you cannot wait til he's four to put him in training.
                                      I have to ask, how many of you that are making such black and white criticisms of racing have ever been to a major racetrack? How many have stood at the rail in the a.m., gone back to a barn to see what happens to the horses and where they go for the rest of the day, and how they are cared for?
                                      If you all can say you have spent a year involved in the dsy-to-day activities on the backstretch of an American racetrack, the I will respect your opinions--good or bad,
                                      But if you have only rescued the forgotten from killer sales, "heard" about jockeys and whips and cruelties, and only read Delcastillo's book, then I cannot really take your commentary seriously.
                                      One more thing: joint injections and racing surfaces are two of the major reasons for breakdowns on the track. Not two-year-old racing, not the fact that the horses are not turned out, but the abuse of the joints, and the unevenness or "fastness' of the tracks.
                                      ALL JUST MY OPINION>
                                      Turning For Home, Inc.
                                      Philadelphia Park Racehorse Retirement Program


                                      • #39
                                        SeaOats and Curious George you are a good one's for slamming people, especially those you do not know and have no knowledge about what they do. I feel sorry for those around you that are effected by your lack of integrity.
                                        Ask and allow, do not demand and force.


                                        • #40
                                          I'm not slamming anyone. You're the one slamming the "major players".