Could Bits Be The Cause Of Sudden Death In Racehorses?

by | 11.24.2015 | 7:00am
Dr. Cook questions the role of bits in airway obstruction

Could bits be to blame for the sudden deaths we occasionally see on the racetrack? Dr. Bob Cook, professor emeritus of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University suggests that it's a possibility.

A report in HorseTalk New Zealand detailed Cook's history of research on the physical problems caused by bits. Cook was the first to suggest that blood in the nostrils of a horse likely came from the lungs, not the nose or throat, and in 1998, alleged that exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage was caused by asphyxia.

Now, Cook is proposing that a neurological disease of the voice box may trigger lung bleeding and even sudden death, with the use of bits as a major cause. Cook's belief is that the bit causes the horse to open its lips and hold its head and neck in a different position than it does at liberty, creating movement of the soft palate that can make it hard for the horse to breathe properly.

Cook's hypothesis was published this month in the journal Equine Veterinary Education. He wrote that bitless training and racing should resolve these issues in racehorses.

Cook, incidentally, is also the inventor of a style of bitless bridle that went into production in 1999.

Read more at HorseTalk New Zealand

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