Kentucky officials will consider regulations for use of shock-wave therapy in racehorses and also whether money for equine drug research should be spent on establishing threshold levels and withdrawal times for permitted medications.
Research continues into shock-wave therapy, which can help heal fractures when used properly. Rumors have circulated that horsemen use machines improperly to derive anesthetic benefits in racehorses before they compete.
During the March 11 Kentucky Equine Drug Council meeting attended by several racetrack practitioners, Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley said the Kentucky Racing Commission would address shock-wave therapy at its March 19 meeting. He said officials have discussed the practice and believe horses and jockeys need to be protected.
Bernie Hettel, executive director of the racing commission, said proposed rules for use of shock-wave therapy would be discussed at the meeting. For example, horses on the program might be placed on the vet's list for five to 10 days prior to entry, he said.
Dr. Larry Bramlage will be on hand to explain the procedure and review rules in place in other jurisdictions such as California and Florida.
In discussing various research projects, including one to determine the analgesic affect of the simultaneous use of phenylbutazone and flunixin in racehorses, the drug council was asked to look into research to support or establish threshold levels and withdrawal times for therapeutic medications. Horsemen and veterinarians want them in place to go along with Kentucky's medication rules.
"Practitioners need threshold levels and withdrawal times," said Dr. Arnold Pessin, who represents the Lexington-based Race Track Practitioners. "You'll never have a national (medication and testing) program without them."
"We support that position," said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "Horsemen don't know when (medication) can be given without withdrawal times."
Both organizations were asked to submit the joint request in writing for consideration at the next drug council meeting. Pessin later said the request wasn't made in concert with the Kentucky HBPA.
A study on the simultaneous use of Bute and Banamine was performed in the early 1990s, but it didn't address the analgesic affect on racehorses. In Kentucky, it's legal to use both pain relievers on race days.
Ned Bonnie, a member of the drug council, said the laboratory at Iowa State University, which holds Kentucky's equine drug-testing contract, reported there are a substantial number of horses in Kentucky with "substantial amounts of Bute and flunixin" in their systems prior to racing. He called it an "issue of national scope."
"Kentucky is the only state that permits either drug to be used on race day," Bonnie said. "The fact they can be used together is an issue. If Kentucky is going to continue to take that position, this study would demonstrate whether there isn't a problem, or it may demonstrate the reverse. This study has been long-needed, and it's certainly appropriate."
The project, to be performed by Dr. Thomas Tobin of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, will be considered by a drug council advisory committee and then handed back to the council for consideration.
The council postponed action on a plan to have the UK equine research lab reviewed. M. Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture, said a number of questions must be answered before all parties (UK, the drug council, and the racing commission) agree on the parameters of the review.
A national committee headed by Dr. Rick Sams of Ohio State University was formed to oversee the review. Smith said the college welcomes it, but it must be "independent."
"There are good, productive reviews, and there are bad, useless reviews," Smith said.