Letter to the Editor: David Powell


I am continually bemused by the way our racing authorities everwhere are barking up the wrong tree, or should I say aiming at the wrong targets.

In the United States, they seem to be looking for any way they can find to avoid discussing bute and banamine, the only two drugs sufficiently pain-masking to provoke catastrophic breakdowns when the horse cannot respond to the pain barrier. In Britain, they are focusing on tildren, a beneficial treatment initially developed for humans with bone cancer, when there are much more serious issues to face.

If shock waves or tildren could numb pain to the same degree as bute, or at all for that matter, it would be common knowledge. The fact is, it ain’t so.

If ever there were two therapies who help horses on the way to good health, toward the top of the list you would have shock waves and tildren, both of which can break a vicious circle of self-perpetuating inflammation, and actually induce a virtuous one, setting a horse in chronic pain on its way to recovery, and thereby eventually less subject to breaking down.

The published study is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and completely biased (Shockwave Therapy: New Research Suggests Possible Link to Catastrophic Injury). Obviously the horses who receive shock waves (among other therapies) are also those with problems, and therefore that group will be more subject to breakdowns than the average population.

This makes sense, if you just think about it objectively, doesn’t it?

The conclusion of this study is akin to “discovering” that people who take paracetamol are more subject to headaches, or that those who receive insulin are more prone to diabetes….

How about a study of what percentage of the horses who had catastrophic breakdowns racing or breezing, were on bute or banamine? And compare that with the average of the breed?

And then concentrate on the real problem: horses working at speed and racing on powerful analgesics.

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