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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

USTA Endorses the Use of Salix (Lasix); What About the Real Problem?

At the USTA Board of Directors meeting on Monday, the regulatory committee adopted the USTA's position on the use of Salix (formerly known as Lasix). The position adopted was "The race day use of the therapeutic substance furosemide under controlled condition be continued as the most effective and humane treatment of the racehorse.”

Truth is I can't argue with the decision of the panel regarding the use of Salix in standardbred racing.  After all, what would happen to these horses if they couldn't race?   What does disturb me is the fact that we allow horses that bleed to be used for breeding purposes. Clearly bleeding is not a desirable trait in a horse and every attempt should be made to minimize the occurrence of horses that bleed from EIPH.

If we breed a bleeder to a bleeder, is there any surprise that bleeding would occur in their off-spring? After all, a South African study regarding thoroughbreds indicates "... epistaxis as associated with EIPH in Southern African Thoroughbred sires has a strong genetic basis. Genetic trends indicating an increase in epistaxis were also found. Affected stallions and those racing whilst being treated with furosemide should be barred from breeding and not be considered as future sires."

As the study shows epistaxis, which is nose bleeding in horses actually comes from EIPH and not the nose as previously thought. Why are we using a thoroughbred study? The same reason the USTA relied on a South African thoroughbred study when deciding that Salix should be allowed; no sufficient study involving standardbreds has been done but it is safe to assume if it is genetic in thoroughbreds, it is genetic in standardbreds. A more recent study shows the genetic predisposition to bleeding comes more often from the sire than the dam.

Needless to say, whether or not we allow the use of Salix is a red herring; the real question which needs to be asked is why we are not doing anything to eliminate the problem at its root? Why are we allowing bleeders to become sires? Responsible breeding would be attempting to eliminate this undesirable trait from the breed or at least minimize it as much as possible. Clearly in the desire to breed faster horses, the fact a horse raced on lasix has been disregarded.

I would propose the following, prefacing it with I am no expert on breeding:

What should happen is any major race (perhaps one day to be determined as Grade 1), the rules should not allow the use of any race-day medication, be it lasix, bute, or something else. In addition, the USTA should adopt a rule which indicates any stallion foal born starting a certain year who have been certified to have bled three times during their racing career (twice if less than twenty starts), shall not be approved for stallion duty; the year being set to not impact any resulting off-spring from a breeding which occurred that year of adoption.

In addition, since the majority of our horses are now racing on lasix, it is likely necessary to introduce new blood into the standardbred breed by allowing the importation of foreign stallions from approved stud books who are no more than 1/4 North American standardbred to stand stud provided they have not been certified as multiple occurrence bleeders in their home country. As an encouragement, to those willing to import these stallions, they would be allowed to cover 20% more mares for their first five years of stud duty in the United States.

Of course this is what should be done. Breeders will certainly feel different. 

1 comment:

JLB said...

Salix is overused, period. My 4 YO pacer is racing this Sunday. Of the 8 horses, plus 2 also eligibles, he is the only one not on Salix. It is hard to imagine that most of the others, if properly campaigned, would need it.