Kentucky has taken its ban on "milkshakes" in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing one step further with a specific directive that naso-gastric tubes cannot be used at all on raceday, even for therapeutic purposes. The commission said the directive was issued "to inform current and newly licensed veterinary practitioners of current policy."
In October, veterinarians asked the Kentucky Racing Commission to consider changes in regulations that govern use of naso-gastric tubes. The practitioners said they must be able to protect the health of horses, and use of naso-gastric tubes is part of the equation.
The Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners earlier adopted a resolution that supports Kentucky's regulations on racehorse medication and the use of substances that allow for the humane treatment of animals. Dr. Roger Murphy, president of the KAEP, targeted pre-race restrictions on use of naso-gastric tubes in comments before the commission in October.
"We have an ethical obligation to treat animals in the best way possible," Murphy said at the time. "Because of some unnecessary bad press or public relations issues, restraints have been put upon us. The overwhelming majority of practitioners have the animals' interests at heart. The commission shouldn't be regulating how we practice medicine."
At Tuesday's commission meeting in Lexington, commission chairman Frank Shoop said use of naso-gastric tubes would be banned on raceday. Any horse found to be tubed will be scratched and put on the veterinarian's list, Shoop said.
The directive will be sent out immediately, officials said. The existing directive on milkshakes -- a concoction of bicarbonate and other substances that is believed to affect performance -- remains in place. A question was raised in October as to whether the milkshake ban also served as a tubing ban.
Dr. Alex Harthill, president of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, was fined $1,000 for use of a naso-gastric tube on a raceday, July 4 at Churchill Downs. A trainer accused Harthill of milkshaking the horse, though a subsequent commission investigation and results of drug tests turned up no violations. Harthill, who paid the fine, said he merely administered electrolytes to a dehydrated animal.
Veterinarians have told the racing commission use of naso-gastric tubes for humane purposes should be permitted.