ANOTHER REAL VET BILL
This bill reflects a pattern of disintegration I have seen many times over the years in horses sent to me from the track because their performance seemed to be "tailing off". Observing them, I began to feel that I was running a "Betty Ford Clinic" for horses. This particular horse, NJ, arrived at my farm in December. The owner had called and asked if I would be willing to take it. The trainer had said there was nothing wrong with the horse. He had just tailed off. His form deteriorated with each race after he won his maiden race.
This horse, a colt, had been purchased in the March Two-Year-Old In-Training Sale and had gone directly from that sale to the racetrack. So, at the ripe old age of 24 months, NJ (the colt) found himself at the track. Keep in mind he was probably stalled and in training from the age of 18 to 20 months.
When he arrived, he really didn't look too bad. His joints weren't swollen or loggy appearing. It was obvious they had been fired, but he looked reasonably sound. He was very well balanced and proportioned. His legs didn't turn in or out. His conformation was correct. He was turned out in a small paddock. He didn't move when turned loose. He stood in the paddock and showed little interest in his surroundings. At the time this was attributed to the fact he might had been given a tranquillizer.
Upon my request, the owner sent me a copy of the vet bills so that I could try to reconstruct his experience and performance at the track. Let me share the bill with you.
Month One (March)
3/03 Fecal exam
We may surmise from the treatment, that the horse was put into training, had a tying-up problem, and was given a powder for it. He then bucked his shins. The trainer wanted to keep him going, had him fired and kept him at the racetrack. It appears that he was probably walked and hosed until his shins were better as there are no bills for April. Remember, this is a 25 month old animal, confined to a twelve by twelve stall and walked once or twice a day for maybe half an hour.
Month Three (May)
5/ 9 Electrolytes
Since there are no other bills for April and May, we may assume that NJ is training uneventfully, probably galloping a mile to a mile and a half with gradual increments of speed at the end of the gallops every few days. He may have gone to the gates on occasion. The actual time he spent on the track would have been about 15 minutes a day.
HORSE RACED 6/7
HORSE RACED 6/24
These bills seemed tame compared to the bills we just examined. But why would a young healthy horse need painkillers and steroids every time he ran? Medicorten is a corticosteroid. Medicorten and ACTH are very potent anti-inflammatory medications. ACTH is an adrenocortcotropic hormone. It stimulates the adrenal glands to boost production of their own steroids. If they are boosted too often, the natural adrenal glands can become exhausted and stop production.. They are effective in treating chronic inflammation but have potential side effects that can leave horses seriously crippled. This combination of medications was the pattern throughout NJ's time at the track. It appeared that the trainer and vet were giving these medications just in case, since there were no X-rays or other signs of joint problems.
THE VET BILLS FOR JUNE WERE $130
Month Five (July)
HORSE RACED 7/12
HORSE RACED 7/23
At least no Lasix or other breathing medication have been given.
THE VET BILLS FOR JULY WERE $136
HORSE RACED 8/28
I didn't like seeing that he was given Equipoise (an anabolic steroid) usually contraindicated in colts. He might have been off his feed, depressed or unaggressive.
THE VET BILLS FOR AUGUST WERE $113