Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The first FEI forum on equine medication control was opened by FEI Secretary General, Michael Stone. He introduced the speakers, thanked everybody for their presence at this important meeting, and explained the purpose of the forum: to educate riders, trainers, veterinarians and officials, and to create an open dialogue between FEI and the equestrian sport community. The forum would include a series of slide presentations by various FEI officers and staff and an open discussion session, with opportunity for questions and concerns to be aired.
HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, President of the FEI, would be in attendance at the forum, to share in the goal of education and dialog between the FEI, the governing body of International Equestrian sport, and equestrian community - those whose lives, sports and careers are integral to the future of the sport.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Study on Endurance horses in competition
The FEI is pleased to announce, with the cooperation of the Dubai Equestrian Club, the scientific study on Endurance horses in competition.
A number of horses, who will compete at an FEI event to be held in Dubai on 24 February, will be studied by a group of Scientists, headed by Dr David Marlin (GBR) and assisted by a panel of Vets headed by Dr Bobby Surendra Babu BL (IND).
Information will be obtained both before, during and after the event to enable the FEI to investigate the effects of top level endurance sport on competition horses.
Dr David Marlin comments: “We are very grateful for this wonderful opportunity provided to us by the Dubai Equestrian Club which will allow us to study elite endurance horses under truly competitive desert ride conditions. We have recently studied elite horses competing in the UK and this work will allow us to build up a clearer picture of the elite horse, especially in relation to warmer conditions. A small International team of respected scientists and veterinary surgeons (Dr Pat Harris, UK; Dr Hal Schott, USA; Dr Rod Fisher, UK; Dr Ray Geor, USA) will join me in Dubai next week to carry out the work. We will be examining weight loss, water consumption, heart function and looking at changes in the blood during and following the ride. This information will form part of the overall review of endurance being undertaken by the FEI and help ensure we protect the health and welfare of the horses in this fast developing and highly competitive sport”.
The FEI is grateful to the Dubai Equestrian Club for the valued assistance in the project.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
by: Tom LaMarra
February 12 2007 Article # 8919
Lousiana research project that shows racehorses can come into contact with drug residue just about anywhere on the backstretch has some horsemen calling for an end to "zero tolerance" drug-testing policies and creation of a national panel to examine data before inadvertent positives are called.
The study, presented by Steven Barker, PhD, during the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association Medication Committee meeting Feb. 9 in Hot Springs, Ark., revealed small quantities of six drugs were found in samples taken from ship-in stalls, the test barn, and pools of water at Louisiana racetracks. Even dust samples were tested and trace amounts of substances were found.
Barker, the chemist for the Louisiana State Racing Commission who plans to publish his findings, said small amounts of phenylbutazone, flunixin, naproxen, caffeine, furosemide, and cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, were discovered in samples. Flunixin, a widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, was the most prevalent, the study showed.
Some drugs were detected from just wiping the interior of stalls.
"We could have gone to other areas of that stall and found other drugs," Barker said during his presentation to horsemen. "Clearly, the backside of a racetrack is heavily contaminated with drugs. Hopefully, you're scared."
With highly sensitive testing methods and zero-tolerance policies, a trainer could be charged with a positive for having one molecule of a substance in a sample, Barker said. Other potential sources of trace amounts of drugs are feed, pasture grasses, improper handling of samples, and mistakes by veterinarians, he said.
Barker said even with precautions in stable areas, drug residue wouldn't be eliminated. Therefore, he said threshold levels for drugs are a necessity.
"First of all, we need to abolish the concept of zero tolerance," Barker said. "It's an over-simplified attempt to regulate drugs. There's no sense to continue that nonsense. You can't eliminate drug contamination, so you have to approach it at the interpretation-of-data end."
Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida HBPA and chairman of the National HBPA Medication Committee, criticized laboratories and regulators. He said labs get business "by showing regulators they can find things," and regulators "believe any time there is a (positive) it was an attempt by the trainer to compromise a race. A lot of people judge labs by number of calls."
Stirling said the suggestion of a drug-positive review panel should be taken to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium for consideration. Barker said the panel would "offer some kind of political cover for the industry to establish better thresholds."
The RMTC is in the process of having research performed to establish threshold levels for almost 50 therapeutic medications. Barker, Stirling, and other said thresholds are important given regulations that don't keep in step with technology.
Barker claimed about 80% of drug positives fall under the category of having no impact on a horse outside of 24 hours. "These comments I've heard that any level (of a substance) could potentially have an impact on performance ... oh, crap."
In another presentation, Thomas Tobin, MVB, PhD, Dipl. ABT, of the University of Kentucky discussed caffeine and its metabolites. Tobin, an adviser to the National HBPA, noted the variation in threshold levels for caffeine in various jurisdictions--30 nanograms per milliliter in urine in Hong Kong to 1,000 nanograms per milliliter in Canada.
"Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance on earth," said Tobin, who is continuing to research the drug. "It's a hunting license for a chemist."
Robert Lewis, DVM, a former president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and currently the organization's representative on the RMTC, said the RMTC has been effective at getting people to focus on the issues. He cited the group's recommendation to regulate steroids, an action he called proactive.
"The RMTC at first had competing agendas, but no one group dominated," Lewis said. "It has been a largely educational process. It has been rewarding to watch the evolution."
As for Barker's research project, Lewis said it should be presented to the RMTC.
"It opens everybody's eyes to hear this kind of material," Lewis said. "I think it takes peer pressure from the leaders of this industry to get the attention of regulators in these different states. The disparity in the way labs in this country handle post-race samples has been a huge problem."
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
February 11 2007 Article # 8846
[From THE HORSE http://www.thehorse.com/viewarticle.aspx?ID=8846 ]
Can plant and weed seeds contained in horse manure, hooves, and hay cause nonnative plant species (plants that were introduced to that ecosystem but do not grow there naturally) to spread along trails and into parks and forests? This is an ecological question that often arises. Stith T. Gower, PhD, of the Department of Forest Ecology and Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has determined that while there are seeds from weed and non-native plant species in horse manure and hay, the plants that result don't survive or spread on trails. Therefore, horses do not appear to be a major source for the introduction of nonnative species.
"Nonnative plant species pose a serious ecological and economic threat to managed and natural ecosystems," said Gower. "Therefore, there is a great need to identify major sources for the introduction of non-native species and implement management plans to reduce or eliminate their introduction. Horses have been suggested to be an important source for the introduction of nonnative plant species along trails, but the data are largely anecdotal."
The objectives of two studies were to determine if horse hay, manure, and hoof debris samples contained seeds from nonnative species, and if so, whether their seeds would germinate and establish on the trails.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Part 2. Endurance is no walk in the park
NOBODY laughed when Azhar Abu Bakar took nearly 20 hours to finish the 160km 1998 World Endurance championship in Dubai. If anything, many were amazed. He might have finished last among 78 riders but there were more than 80 other riders who didn't even last the distance.
In fact, Azhar created history when he became the first Malaysian to finish an FEI (International Equestrian Federation) race, a Category A meet and a world championship to boot. He was also the only Malaysian to finish then.
Earlier, the field were amused when Azhar and four other Malaysian riders, our first representatives in the sport, came to Dubai with criollos, Argentinian-bred horses which they said is only good for field work."Even the Argentinians laughed at us. Everyone was using Arab-breds and even then they know it's hard to finish. So we were the butts of their jokes," recalled Datuk Awang Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani, who also competed in the meet.
So why the fuss over Arabian horses? For one, it is a very beautiful creature admired by horse-lovers. But the real advantage is the breed has the strength and stamina to last the distance, along with a good recovery rate.Pushing a tired horse to go the distance is a taboo in equestrian as this is considered as cruelty to an animal. Horses have been known to die from dehydration and such and thus veterinarian checks are conducted in stages over a race.
Checks are also conducted before a race starts as a horse might be sick overnight. At the later stages, including the finish line, horses found limping or whose heartbeats exceed certain rates (normally 64 beats per minute and horses have to be submitted for a check within 30 minutes of arrival at designated gates) will be disqualified along with the riders.
The same goes for dehydrated animals. Riders with fit horses can submit their animals earlier and start the next stage sooner. A winner is the person who completes a whole course inthe shortest riding time (vet check-time subtracted) without failing the checks, meaning the first rider to arrive might not necessarily win.
For example, this writer was in Montcuq, France last year to accompany Awang Kamaruddin who participated in the two-day 2x100km championship there and saw the then reigning champion, Tareq Tahir, disqualified over a silly mistake. The frontrunner thought his horse was in the clear when he personally checked the heartbeat rate at 50 per minute. However, the rate shot to 70 when he checked the horse in, all because, believe it or not, the horse got excited when the crowd cheered!
That is why Azhar's finish in Dubai was a big feat. And that is also a reason the Malaysian Endurance Racing Society (MERS) were created at the end of 1999. Previously, there were efforts to get Malaysians to do 100km races here immediately but this had mostly ended up with sick horses.As FEI rules apply for races 90km and above, MERS introduced their own and started having 40km and 60km rides. Their secretary, Rosli Dahlan, said they called it rides to discourage inexperienced riders from being overzealous."If it's called races, they might push and kill their horses," he said.
Under MERS rules, both rider and horse must finish a 40km ride twice to qualify for 60km. They must do the same to qualify for 80km and so on. MERS started conducting the rides last year but had to abort 80km rides due to lack of qualified participants.
But they have pushed for endurance riding to be introduced in the coming Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur and that will cover 105km, equivalent to an FEI Category B event. So they must start a series of 80km qualifiers soon.Their first 80km event was run in Sungai Buloh a month ago although there was only one rider. Luckily, the 40km and 60km rides have more than 20 riders. The qualifiers only increased in number when nine riders competed in the second 80km event at Terachi, Negri Sembilan in March where six finished, the most so far in the peninsula.
But its real significance is the fact that the event is the first ride here conducted in a real countryside. Unlike previous rides held on club grounds or plantations, ordinary folks, including villagers from the affected kampungs, were involved from the start while others came by thedroves.Some, seeing a horse race for the first time, were perplexed when they saw the riders going through what looked like a walk in the park.
"This is a race, isn't it. Aren't the horses supposed to gallop?," one asked.Well, we've already explained it. At least we know they are interested.If they know they could get a horse for as cheap as RM500, a fact no one would mention in the proud circle of riding clubs who pride themselves in showjumping and dressage, they might also want to give endurance a try.This is the real milestone that Terachi event has brought and we'llexplore this further in the next article.
* NEXT: 3. Creating an equestrian culture in Malaysia
Friday, February 02, 2007
The Nation was shocked when Barbaro broke down shortly after leaving the gate at the Preakness. I saw the repaired fractures in TIME magazine. What I think happened is that the sesamoid bone fractured, a common injury. As a result, the fetlock collapses causing the pastern bone to explode into multiple fragments, probably with the next stride or two.
The last time the general public was exposed to a racetrack tragedy like this was when the great filly, Ruffian, fractured; the injury eventually resulting in her death. The news media focuses on great champions like these, but what most people don't realize is that such injuries are relatively common occurrences in horse racing.
Part of the cause is that we have bred athletic power into our racing breeds far exceeding what nature requires for the horse to survive in its natural environment. All wild horses need to do is outrun a big cat. We have selectively bred for speeds that the anatomy of the horse cannot always cope with. In addition, we train and race them long before they are mature.
The immature are often capable of spectacular athletic performance. Every time I watch an Olympics and I see gymnasts as young as 13, 14 or 15 years of age, I wince at the thought of the damage I know is occurring to some of their bodies. I started a year of gymnastics at 17 years of age, and I wasn't very good, but I still managed to do damage that manifested itself many years later. Fortunately, I was drafted into the Army at 18, which ended my gymnastic career.
Half a century ago, when I was cowboying, "colts" were started at four years of age or older. Once in a while, one might be started as a three-year-old. Despite some very hard work, barring accidents, those ranch horses were still sound and working into their 20's. I'm not opposed to racing. It's a great sport and has motivated mankind to produce truly great horse breeds. But I am opposed to any practices which contribute to premature crippling of otherwise healthy horses.
Some years ago, the annual convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (A.A.E.P.) was held in Dallas. The same week, the national cutting horse futurities were being held in nearby Fort Worth. Three colleagues from Sweden told me that they wanted to see the cutting horses. So, one evening, after the day of scientific lectures had ended, I accompanied the three Swedish vets to Fort Worth. After watching several horses perform, the senior Swede, a professor from the vet school in Upsula, Sweden, said, "This is incredible! It must take many years to obtain such performance from a horse." "But," I answered, "this is a futurity." "I do not understand this word," he said. "These are colts," I explained. "These are just three-year-olds." He looked shocked, turned to his companions and explained to them in Swedish and then said to me in English, "I have only two comments: One, it must take great skill to be able to train a horse to do this in so brief a time. And, two, what is happening to their poor legs?"
Today, we have all sorts of futurities - reining, cutting, barrel racing, etc. I have tried many times to get owners to postpone arduous training to give the colt a chance to mature. Most of the time, I was ignored. The lure of winning something or making some money was too great to resist. My strategy when the owner insisted on going ahead with training and/or competition that I felt was premature was to say, "That's okay. You go ahead. What you are doing is very good for my business."
Why is it that the protests against over-using young horses come primarily from the people who profit from such abuse – the veterinarians? Is it because we best understand the trauma being inflicted upon immature skeletons, joints, ligaments and tendons? Just as I am not opposed to racing, if properly conducted, I am not opposed to horse shows or competitive equine events. Horse shows, like all livestock shows, were conceived of long ago to "improve the breed". They were designed to demonstrate and reward the people who were doing the best job of breeding, of selecting bloodstock, and of creating superior bloodlines. Unfortunately, human nature, vanity and greed have corrupted thehorse show industry.
We see grotesque caricatures of the original character of each breed. Stock horses, the working ranch breeds, are shown in Western Pleasure classes traveling in a manner that would drive a working cowboy crazy. With lowered heads, going in a downhill manner, these horses greatly magnify the forces placed upon the forelimbs. Once again, good for us vets. It produces income, but the horses suffer. The wonderful Tennessee Walking Horse is shod and shown in distorted gaits that can only be called "grotesque".
If it weren't for the frequent veterinary checks, which are mandatory, can you imagine how many endurance racing horses would die because of their riders' consuming desire to win? I remember theearly endurance races. Saddlebred, with surgically distorted tails, and gingered anuses, are exhibited with the pupils of their eyes dilated with atropine. How many people who sincerely consider themselves to be "horse lovers" wean foals at three months of age, or even earlier, which nature never intended?
How many horses, a gregarious species, spend their lives locked in box stalls? How many horses in the U.S.A, like so much of our human population, are damaged healthwise by excessive nutrition?Such abuses exist in ever breed, every discipline, in every equine sport. We need to step back and analyze what we are doing. One of my clients was a prosperous, educated couple. They were verycongenial, and they owned three Quarter Horses. One day, they called me to come to their home to worm their horses and check them over and booster their vaccinations. When I arrived, I found only two horses, so I asked where the third one was.
"Oh, he's in training as a reining horse, with ____________ " (a successful and notoriously brutal trainer who also happened to be one of my clients). I said, "Oh, I see." Then the wife said, "We know how cruel he is to the horses, but he wins!" I never felt the same toward those people, again. This same trainer (he's been dead for many years) once said to me, "Doc, why can't you guys cut the tails on my horses? Why do you make me drive 300 miles round trip to get my tails done?" He was referring to the illicit surgical paralyzing of the tail, common in reining horses so they can't switch their tails. ALL of the horses in his barn had their tails cut. I said, "Were you ever beaten in a show by a horse that you knew had its tail cut?" "Oh sure," he said. "Lots of times." "Well," I told him, "I didn't cut the tail nor did my partners. We won't do anything against the association rules." This same guy, a world-class competitor, kept every horse in his barn on Serpecil,a tranquilizer not approved by FDA for use in horses. I have no idea where he got the drug, but somebody was selling it to him.
I believe that a conspiracy exists in the horse show industry. The trainers are judges, and the judges are trainers. Too often, they scratch each others' backs. If Western Pleasure horses were shown as they were 50 or 60 years ago, a good amateur could turn out a champion. But it takes a real pro to produce the freaks seen in today's Western Pleasure classes. And, after the horse goes back to the owner from the trainer and is no longer winning, it has to go back to the trainer for a "tune-up".
A few days before I wrote this article, I got back from Bishop Mule Days, a unique event I attend every year that has no equal anywhere in the world. I had the pleasure of seeing Western Pleasure mulesthat WERE NOT "peanut rollers". The trend began some years ago, but the mule people balked at it and ruled it out. GOOD FOR THEM! You see, to be a mule lover, you REALLY gotta love horses!
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2006 edition of