☛ Mechanical Horse Under the Influence 8-6-14
THE MECHANICAL HORSE
A HORSE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS
By Rick Dennis
Aug. 6, 2014
At first glance, this articles title suggests an apparatus resembling a horse traveling on rails, making a series of stops and turns and acting much like the mechanical cow we see in the training arena. However, this article is about the horse that performs, whether on the racetrack or in the performance arena, under the influence of drugs.
Lately a heightened awareness of horse doping has been bestowed upon us by the news media, news articles and by legislative action in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D – New Mexico is a co-sponsor of a bill addressing the horse-doping fiasco in the United States. “The chronic abuse of race horses with painkillers and other drugs is dangerous and just plain wrong,” Udall said.
Essentially, the bill addresses the horse-doping epidemic in the United States by establishing a federal regulatory commission empowered to design a uniform, federally controlled, enforced and prohibited drug policy for the welfare of the horse. This bill mimics the federally mandated drug and alcohol-testing program established by the 49, CFR, Part 40 rules and regulations for federally mandated workplace drug testing. However, the bill seems to have stalled, due in part to opposition by horse-racing lobbyists.
Being familiar with the human federally mandated drug-and-alcohol testing program from its inception, I can state, without reservation, that this is an excellent model rule and in one case, “the government got it right!” In my opinion, it’s going to take a program of this magnitude to regulate drugs and horses and clean up and regulate the entire equine industry.
Click for copy of Udall’s Bill>>
In a recent news release, a surprising turn of events emerged from the Thoroughbred Racing Industry, entitled: Group of North American Trainers Propose Gradual Elimination of Race-Day Medications
August 1, 2014 – Saratoga Springs, NY – The following group of North American trainers has proposed the gradual elimination of race-day medication in the United States. Under the proposal, no two-year-olds would receive race day medication beginning in 2015, and no horses of any age would receive race-day medication starting in 2016. In addition, this group is supportive of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium’s efforts to approve model rules for twenty-six controlled medications by the RCI board of directors.
“We believe it’s time to take a proactive position regarding the administration of race-day medication. American racing has always been a global leader, and it’s time to restore confidence in our game and in our international standing,” said D. Wayne Lukas, a Hall of Famer who is one of the trainers supporting this proposal. Todd A. Pletcher, another leading trainer is also on the list.
Click for trainers release statement>>
Click for trainers supporting phase out of drugs>>
In my opinion, this is the industry’s attempt to police itself rather than have a government-mandated equine drug-testing policy and program model rule bestowed on it. If the industry is actually going to police itself, it should ban the use of drugs entirely, whether in training or showing, which would eliminate the necessity of establishing a federally mandated equine drug-testing model rule, except for:
Establishing drug testing laboratory certification and testing standards, uniform collection, i.e., (Split) sample methodology, transport Chain of Custody rules, positive drug test review standards, and the types of prohibited substances tested for, in “random” and “for cause” testing, to ensure regulatory compliance.
In my recent analysis of the horse drug-testing industry, I discovered a sea of policy designs, authors and a gambit of rules and regulations ranging from state to state and organization to organization, encompassing both the performance-horse industry as well as the racing industry. Each one, in some fashion or another except for the original, was a copy-machine reproduction and included any flaws the original contained. A federally mandated “Model Rule” would standardize the equine drug-testing industry across the board!
As a Risk Analyst, I could challenge, at will, the majority of equine drug-testing programs on their ability to withstand a legal challenge in a court of law. I contribute this, in part, to the inexperience of the authors, policy designs, as well as the flaws in the original. Overall, certain programs and policies often defied logic in content preparation and rule adoptions that would, if left unchecked, wreak havoc on the participant.
A particular item of interest is deciphering whether certain portions of the penalty phrase were so broad in context as to corral as many individuals as possible, whether members of the association or not, for the purpose of accruing as much “penalty” money as possible from individuals, even to the extent of circumventing Texas nonprofit laws and individual civil rights. Or is this gross assessment of alleged blame a blatant attempt to legitimately punish the violator without obtaining his or her true identity, e.g., the “shotgun effect.”
Other areas of interest defying logic can be identified with the nonprofit that on one hand prohibits the use of a specific drug type, e.g., a tranquilizer, but on the other hand, this drug is permissible on show day allegedly in the best interest of the horse’s welfare. A further example is illustrated in the program which states a specific drug is allowed at a specific level but leaves it up to the administrator of the drug, usually the trainer, to correctly administer the correct dosage.
This is akin to asking a railroad worker how to fly a rocket ship. Could this be considered entrapment or a “CYA” move on the part of the nonprofit, which is simply, a perfect depiction of ambivalence, ambiguity, and a dichotomy in one drug-testing policy.
However, my favorite is the nonprofit promoting the use of drugs for showing purposes, for the “Welfare Of The Horse.” When does providing a horse with drugs to enable it to show have anything to do with its welfare? Those opposing horse doping could easily view this as “Animal Abuse” – not welfare, as well as the exploitation of an animal for self-serving purposes without regard for the animal or the riders’ safety!
After reviewing a myriad of equine drug-testing policies, as well as IRS 990 filings from nonprofits, the realization came to light regarding the magnitude in accrued drug-testing revenue certain nonprofits were receiving due to their equine drug-testing program. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) reported $1.8 million dollars in gross receipts in one year. At this point, one should ask whether or not the true philosophy behind some equine drug-testing programs is legitimately based on the welfare of the horse as is published in their “Mission Statements” or are their programs a result of some mathematical wizard realizing a “Money Pit” for the nonprofit?
As with all subjects, there are those who promote drug use with horses during training and showing and those who adamantly oppose this treatment of horses and view it as abuse, myself included. In my opinion, from a professional trainer’s standpoint as well as my expertise in the realm of drugs of abuse and private-sector drug testing, there is no logical reason for the use of drugs in either capacity to justify the means, except for self-serving purposes, e.g., nonprofits want to keep the participation up for the percentage split of entry fees and the trainers’, owners’ and exhibitors’ desire to keep a horse showing whether impaired or injured. Again, self-serving purposes!
In my 16 years of drug enforcement, I heard a litany of reasons why an individual wanted to use drugs, which I dismissed as illogical and self-serving. Notwithstanding, I’ve heard this song before and unfortunately it’s the same-case scenario repeating itself. More often than not, the real reason for an individual’s drug use is for a self-serving purpose. In drug enforcement, we categorize an individual’s use of drugs as a victimless crime due to the event being self-imposed. However, in my opinion, the horse being drugged is a true victim and a specific target of self-serving intentions by the administrator.
In the past, I’ve had two Snaffle Bit Futurity horses with the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA): Dual Train and Nic Chex. Dual Train was a finalist and Nic Chex was a strong contender. Neither horse was drugged during training or showing. Each horse walked into the arena drug free, performed drug free, and left drug free. One excuse I’ve heard for using drugs during training and showing purposes is that they have to train hard and their horses get sore.
Another excuse addresses the use of Ace Acepromazine during warm-up and showing is, “I give a little Ace so I don’t have to lope the horse so much, thus saving his hocks.”
Has doping horses in the performance-horse industry become a replacement training tool for hard work and determination, especially for the lazy rider or trainer’? I find these excuses incredulous to say the least, especially when the individual is training a horse for one event such as cutting or reining while a reined cow horse has to learn three events: reining, cutting, and cow horse in the same time period.
One of the most fascinating lessons I learned pertaining to the effects of drugs on a living anatomy was included in my training at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs training school in 1973. A scientist from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) delivered a very powerful demonstration using drugs such as narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, sedatives, and psycho hypnotics on laboratory mice to fully demonstrate the effects of drugs on the living anatomy.
The demonstration with the most desired effect involved a mouse being injected with cocaine to demonstrate how a particular drug made the body operate above its natural performance level.
I learned that everyone’s anatomy, including man, beast, fish or bird, is designed to operate at a certain level of performance with built-in genetic safeguards to prevent damage due to overexertion by slowing down the system. After injection, the mouse was placed on a wheel and the subsequent demonstration revealed the mouse ran the wheel until it died, thus disregarding the body’s genetically built-in safe guards and “only responding” to the cocaine’s induced effects instead.
So it is with horses. A horse is born with DNA from the sire and dam making up the genetic structure designed for growth, learning, behavior, sex, athletic ability, etc. I’ve never seen a DNA report for a horse where drugs were part of the genetic makeup. During a horse’s developmental stage, cellular growth is directed by this genetic structure to stay abreast with the rate of growth. As the young horse develops, its muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone structure are genetically designed to develop at a certain rate and level of performance to carry it through to adulthood. When this genetic development is altered with the introduction of a foreign substance, such as drugs, then the rate and level growth period is out of kilter.
If a horse’s body muscles develop faster than say its ligaments, tendons and bone structure, due to an alteration of its DNA-designed growth pattern by drug use, then the youngster’s body will not withstand the power and load the drug-induced musculature has subjected it to.
Therefore, as in the law of physics, “for every action, there is a reaction,” and this is when ligaments break down, bone splinters occur, bone fractures develop, hocks disintegrate and, in some cases, young horses’ lives and careers disintegrate along with their bodies. A horse should not be a disposable item due to an individual’s self-serving purposes!
In a more simple illustration, just imagine installing an engine into an automobile designed to operate with an engine at a certain power level, altering this design by installing an engine of greater power. The end result will be that all of the supporting parts of the automobile will begin to break down due to an increase in the stress factor. Keeping the automobile running will require repairs and the replacement of parts. Unfortunately, the horse doesn’t have this option or luxury.
In the quest for horses to run faster and jump higher so to speak, doping or using drugs to enhance performance seems to be the norm today in showing and training arenas among some philosophies and is a sad but true commentary for such a wonderful sport. The object of the horse industry is to breed a superior animal and demonstrate its superior genetic capability, both in the performance arena and the breeding shed.
When drugs are used in the training arena, show pen, or on the racetrack, the observer is not seeing an animal performing at its natural state but instead is witnessing the performance of a “mechanical horse,” whose ability is falsely induced.
In essence, this could be conceived as a fraudulent act, especially when the general public or the co-competitor is not aware that this seemingly amazing animal is performing at such heights because it is performing under the influence of a drug or drugs. My opinion is that in order to erase this fraudulent appearance, the participant or exhibitor should have to list the drug or drugs this animal is performing with prior to exhibition in order for the betting public or the co-competitor to make a rational decision whether or not to either bet on the horse or compete against it in the performance arena.
One of the most illogical and convoluted thought processes I’ve heard is an individual stating that, “trainers are better today so I use drugs to keep up with the competition.” After hearing this statement, I would like to know how many winning runs and arm-pumping displays of satisfaction and excitement edging a trainer toward the “million-dollar rider” status was actually accomplished on drug-free horses.
For those trainers endorsing the use of drugs in their training and showing program, this is a very dangerous and slippery slope to travel and actually places them in a very precarious (Catch 22), double-edged sword position, which can cut both ways.
On one hand, the owner of the horse who knows a trainer uses drugs in his or her program is either for or against drugging their horse. If the latter is the premise, this could cost the trainer a lot of lost revenue generation from individuals who view horse doping as horse abuse.
The same is true for organizations that allow the use of drugs on show day. A powerful voice against drugging horses is rising among the populous and this populous is a powerful voice to be reckoned with! Overall, there isn’t one excuse or scenario that an individual or trainer can offer me to justify his or her reason to drug a horse – either to train or show – that I’ll find logical. If they need more time to train a horse for a futurity, then the futurity should be for 4-year-olds and not 3-year-olds.
In my opinion, when a trainer uses drugs to keep a horse in training that’s sore, uses drugs to enhance the performance of a marginal horse, or promotes changing a nonprofit’s equine drug-testing policy by enabling the use of drugs on show day, is merely doing so to benefit his or herself and is a clear illustration of this individual’s desire to win at any cost, even to the detriment of the horse! On the other hand, some folks may simply view this as animal abuse, cheating, a total disregard for the welfare of the horse and a moral violation of the “Spirit of Competition”!
“Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridles!
Copyright 2014, all rights reserved.
Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Wind River Security, Consultation & Risk Analysis
Wind River Drug, Alcohol & DNA Testing
Wind River Ranch – Reined Cow Horse Breeding, Training, Exhibition & Sales
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
Web Site: http://www.windrivercompanyllc.com
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