Florida HBPA Conducts Lasix Survey

More than 90% support its use, but some have no opinion.

In a survey designed to combat claims that the leaders of horsemen's groups don't accurately represent their membership, the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association Sept. 16 released the results of a poll that indicate most respondents support race-day administration of furosemide.

Furosemide, also called Lasix or Salix, is administered to reduce bleeding in the lungs of a racehorse. It is the only permitted race-day medication in most United States jurisdictions, but is outlawed in most other countries.

Florida HBPA executive Kent Stirling, who chairs the National HBPA Medication Committee, said the horsemen's group was in the process of updating its email list and decided to do a Lasix survey in conjunction with the endeavor. He said the survey will continue as the email list is updated.

Stirling said the individuals, mainly owners, contacted include those who race in Florida year-round and those who race in the winter at Gulfstream Park.

Florida HBPA staff, Stirling said, asked each individual their position on race-day administration of Lasix, with three possible answers—they support it, are against it, or have no opinion.

Through mid-September, 1,068 email account-holders were called, and each was permitted one vote. Stirling said if a horseperson was involved in five different accounts, he or she would be entitled to one vote.

The results are as follows: 90.5% support race-day Lasix, while about 9.5% oppose it. The Florida HBPA said 817 account-holders support use of Lasix, 86 oppose it, and 165 had no opinion.

"I was really shocked at that," Stirling said of the number of respondents who have no opinion. "A lot of people we contacted don't even know what Lasix is."

Lasix is used to combat exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding in the lungs.

"The 'vocal minority' makes a lot of noise with no surveys to back up their assumptions, but now the 'silent majority' has had an opportunity to speak, and they have spoken loud and clearly," Stirling said. "I think any survey of those with actual 'skin' in the game, done in any other jurisdiction, would bear the same results."

In a related matter, Stirling said the Florida HBPA is participating in a study conducted by Dr. Stephen Selway of the Gulfstream Equine Surgical Clinic into Lasix use in 2-year-olds that compete in maiden special weight events and stakes at the Florida racetrack. Selway earlier said 277 endoscopic examinations have been performed, and the images were sent to independent evaluators.

Selway said the results of the study "will be of significant value regarding the welfare of the racehorse, EIPH, and its management, particularly since we are looking at what the industry considers our most-talented 2-year-olds."

"It's going to be a massive study," Stirling said. "It (is a sampling) of a lot of horses, on both grass and dirt."