Monday, April 20, 2009

Juices in Our Ponies

After a weekend of drooling over a four-year-old sorrel gelding at Henderson's Arena, I have been thinking about futurity prospects and all of the ethical implications involved.
At four, this colt was a stout 16 hands tall with a stride from hell. I'm not usually attracted to this type of horse, but his deep croup and straight back legs just screamed run. At this second show of his career, he clocked a 16.8, less eight tenths  off the fastest time of the day - and he was just high loping. 

I'm not speculating as to whether or not this horse was being enhanced by any substances or not, but seeing him made me think about what we all don't talk about in polite conversations - what our horses are running on. Drugs are the purple elephant in the room, but they shape the way the industry runs at every level.

Futurity horses are one example horses flying high on speed and all other fun juices, but drugs aren't limited to young horses. It seems like more and more, horses of all ages are being doped in one way or another. 

I'm guilty - my 16-year-old black AQHA mare has broken all four legs, and we have vetted the crap out of her to keep her healthy and running. She has had an IV of Tildren to help rebuild her navicular bone and give her vertebrae more cushion, and if I have enough money she gets Legend every few months. She gets Red Cell, Calf Manna, Grow'n'Win GC, and Omolene 200. She's a happy, healthy horse, and she runs very consistently. 

Now, all of these supplements will pass a test with flying colors at the Congress, World Show, or any where else. I've pretty much only had this horse my whole career, except for some colts here and there, so I've been relatively sheltered from the steroid usage of much of my competition. Like steroids and drugs in almost any other sport, the actual extent of their usage will never truly be known. 

I worked for a vet for years, and I saw the underbelly of the industry. I saw nerved horses that couldn't walk otherwise come in with broken legs that they couldn't even feel. 
How far have drugs gone in our industry, and at what point do we care about what goes in to our show horses? At what point do you say a horse won't make it without the drugs and just give it another job?

More importantly, what exactly are the ethical standards in our industry? Are they the spoken standards that we can all talk about on the bleachers pleasantly, or are they really what people do behind closed doors, with IVs and needles?

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