Everything Old Is New Again: Examining Thyroxine

by | 06.20.2014 | 11:01am

Off-label use of thyroxine (sold as Thyro-L, Levoxine Powder, or Levo-Powder) has been popular among trainers since the 1970s, but recent revelations from leading Thoroughbred conditioners about blanket use of the product in their barns has veterinarians and regulators concerned.

When used according to label instructions, levothyroxine supplements are intended to correct hypothyroidism—a condition in which a horse's thyroid does not function adequately on its own. A normal thyroid produces both thyroxine, known as T4, and triiodothyronine, known as T3, which work with chemicals in the brain to maintain normal biological processes and control metabolism. Too little of either T3 or T4 will reduce metabolism, and causes hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism in horses is characterized by a fatty, cresty neck, resistance to losing weight despite exercise, lethargy, a poor hair coat, and even decreased temperature or anemia in extreme cases.

The opposite can also occur—a horse can produce too much T3 or T4 in a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by a difficulty putting on weight, increased appetite, increased heart rate, and hyperactivity.

Veterinarians say both conditions are relatively rare among horses.

“In our practice, I think if we had half a dozen horses a year that we put on thyroxine that's probably too many,” said Dr. Jeff Blea, a Southern California racetrack veterinarian who currently is president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. “Hypothyroidism is a pretty rare metabolic disease in the horse.”

The few true cases of hypothyroidism in the horse population are usually among foals who develop the condition as a result of an iodine deficiency (iodine is used to produce T3 and T4).

In humans and small animals, the easiest way to determine whether a patient is suffering from hypothyroidism or another metabolic conditionis with a blood test. In horses, Blea said, a blood test is not always a helpful tool. Studies have shown that T4 levels naturally vary through the course of a day or week. Certain environmental factors like training schedule, diet, and the use of phenylbutazone, can falsely raise or lower T4 rates. A biopsy of the thyroid can also provide confirmation in small animals, but isn't much more reliable than the blood test in horses.

“A lot of the time it's used based on clinical signs,” said Blea. “When all this came about a year or two ago, people called me and I laughed and said, ‘Why would they be doing that [giving thyroxine to horses without hypothyroidism]?'”

Good question.

“I made some phone calls to trainers. I think it's used almost as a nutritional supplement, which I don't particularly agree with. I don't use it that way,” said Blea. “If thyroid regulates metabolism, and you have a 1,200-pound Thoroughbred who's in race training, he's going to have an increased metabolism.”

That metabolism becomes even higher with the addition of thyroxine, which runs $24 or less per month depending on the size of the dose prescribed.

“As an athlete, as your metabolism increases, your fitness, muscle mass, strength, definition, and proportions also increase … Unfortunately, that's not how it should be used.”

The danger is that veterinarians still don't know what the artificial boost to a horse's thyroid could do—especially in the longterm. Blea said that it's difficult to know how much of the drug horses are getting, and whether the amounts trainers are giving can induce unseen symptoms of hyperthyroidism. In humans, hyperthyroidism is associated with increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, and, according to one study published in the European Journal of Endrocrinology, a 20 percent higher risk of death.

Blea also can't be sure whether most Thoroughbreds get enough of the drug to produce the hyperactivity characteristic of hyperthyroidism, or whether that hyperactivity could serve as a performance enhancer. He suspects that if a trainer saw some of the outward symptoms that accompany hyperthyroidism, like poor coat and hair loss, they would likely back off on the drug—but this doesn't mean that its off-label use in moderate doses is risk-free, and many horsemen may not realize it.

“I think they think it's an innocuous supplement,” Blea said.

Dr. Rick Sams, laboratory director at LGC Sport and Specialized Analytical Services in Kentucky, said he has heard anecdotally of horses receiving “massive” doses of thyroxine on the track, but has no direct knowledge of how it is typically administered. The California Horse Racing Board's investigation into trainer Bob Baffert revealed that thyroxine was given in the horses' feed, which was often mixed by the grooms. Its administration was so routine that a prescription was accidentally written for a horse a week after its death.

Another wild card is speculation that thyroxine could be used to mitigate the effects of cobalt chloride, believed by some to act similarly to a blood doping agent in horses.

“I suspect that thyroxine is getting more attention today due to its association with cobalt administration and the use of thyroxine to protect against the adverse effects of cobalt on thyroid function,” said Sams. “I am unaware of any documented evidence that orally administered thyroxine is useful in preventing adverse effects of cobalt administration in the horse.”

Regulators in California have made moves to curb the widespread use of thyroxine, but successful post-race testing for unnecessary thyroxine administration is still in the development stages. The challenge is that T4 levels vary so much naturally, and biologically-produced T4 might slow to a trickle to compensate for a dose of artificial T4.

Blea said that thanks to historical records of necropsies on California tracks and other archived data, a better understanding of thyroxine and possible links to cobalt are  just around the corner.

  • jazz mania

    “The danger is that veterinarians still don’t know what the artificial boost to a horse’s thyroid could do—especially in the longterm. Blea said that it’s difficult to know how much of the drug horses are getting, and whether the amounts trainers are giving can induce unseen symptoms of hyperthyroidism. In humans, hyperthyroidism is associated with increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, and, according to one study published in the European Journal of Endrocrinology, a 20 percent higher risk of death.”

    The quote above almost says it all; add the effects of a race effort on a hot summer day and this drug or “supplement”, if it’s unknown effect is as intended, becomes a potential killer. Just more ammo for those who advocate full disclosure and nationwide regulation of meds given to race horses. If horsemen really believe it to be an innocuous supplement, then why do they administer it?

    • betterthannothing

      “add the effects of a race effort on a hot summer day and this drug or
      “supplement”, if it’s unknown effect is as intended, becomes a potential

      jazz, well said. Lasix can’t possibly help the whole ghastly chemical picture for those poor horses on race day. The industry should have zero tolerance for those who are willing to risk the health and lives of horses to game the system. Everything should be banned at least 14 or better 21 days before each start, with rare, closely controlled, fully disclosed exceptions.

      • jazz mania

        Thanks BTN. I think it is also relevant that this puts jocks in a situation of unknown and unneeded risk. I think the legal term might be negligent injury or worse. I know if I was riding an already high strung Tbred, I’d want to know what or if accelerants were put in the furnace.

        • betterthannothing

          Jazz, indeed! Jockeys own the key to major reforms, yet they refuse to protect their own lives by mandating change. It is unbelievable and so disappointing that jockeys have turned themselves into the ultimate enablers and kamikazes. Unlike horses, jockeys have a voice and are free to choose what they do, yet accept to be deceived and endangered by unethical horsemen and vets and their dangerous, greedy abuse of drugs. “The game” facilitates abuse and endangerment of athletes by deceiving them. Crucial (but scary), potentially lifesaving information such as equine injury, disease and painkilling treatments are being hidden.

          • That’s why they are called”Pinheads.”

          • betterthannothing

            Lou: They really deserve to be called pinheads because they could boycott racing and force major reforms but rather cross their chests, pray and ride scared than face the ugly truth and force change!!! The Pinehead’s Guild is part of the problem as it continues to avoid discussing major reforms to make racing more humane and safer for fear of disrupting racing and loosing mounts…

          • ginger2000

            I agree. So courageous when it comes to riding, but so afraid of not getting mounts that they will not band together to help themselves. I am especially disappointed by former jockeys – those who no longer have to cater to owners and trainers to get mounts.

  • Denise Mosimann

    What’s wrong with complete transparency in their vet records! I’m in favor of a Zero toleranace to medications and supplements because no matter what it is, bersides Oats, Hay and Water, some trainer abuses it. Was Social Bug on the Throxine?

    • betterthannothing

      Well said. Racing in this country is too unethical, polluted and poor at this point. Horses would need to be under constant surveillance and all substances controlled to assure true vet records and/r racing must get rid of its miscreants with huge fines and bans. Something drastic must be done first and foremost for the welfare of race horses and quality of racing.

    • Zaffiro

      No she was not. He stopped using it some time ago.

  • Marion N.

    Too many ‘horsemen’ too often just do the “monkey see – monkey do” thing. They refuse to educate themselves. They see someone else giving horses meds, hear what they are supposed to be for, and then give their own horses the same because they don’t want to lose ‘an edge’. Rarely does anyone do their own due diligence in regards to research or education. Very sad state of affair! And not good for the animals and the sport.
    It’s about time to stop trainers from ‘pretending to be vets and ordering’ certain meds for their horses. Just leave this to the veterinarians. After all, they went to college for years and spent thousands of dollars to learn (and earn) their knowledge. If a trainer wants to be a vet, go back to college. If a trainer wants to be a horse trainer, learn what is involved in “training” horses. Medicating horses has nothing to do with training them.
    The sad part of it all is, that there are real horsemen and trainers out there! Yet their work and their voices are constantly overshadowed by the ones I mentioned above.
    But then again, if the regulators of the sport keep allowing all kind of medications and drugs by calling them ‘legal or therapeutic’, it’s very easy to say and sounds pretty good, that there are only very few drug overages and negative doping results in our sport. :poop:

    • Sunny D

      Very true!

    • Ron Mcneil

      the vets, are you kidding? they and the so called trainers are responsible for the ram-pet over medication use in racing. i have been involved in racing for the last 60 years, 40 years ago in nj there was 250 days of racing & 5 vet practices. ONLY one of the vet practices was more than 1 vet, now there is 50 days of racing 5 vet practices and ONLY 1 is a 1 vet practice. years ago if you wanted to be a trainer you worked you way up…hotwalker, groom, exercise rider, foreman, assistant trainer and THEN trainer. there was no reason (or money) to rely on the vet.

      BOTTOM LINE: REGULATE THE VETS, after all very, very few truely put the money 2nd!

      • Marion N.

        Your statement is true, and I totally agree with you. Most race track vets nowadays are taking advantage of the never ending ‘income’. But the trainers who don’t know how to train a horse are the ones who got them to be part of the backsides in the first place. If the backsides were still full of old school trainers, the horses, riders and the sport’s reputation would be just fine. I believe that we are thinking the same, but my words of my original post may not have come across as clear? Sorry about that.

        • Ron Mcneil

          the vets (medication) have become the “crutch” for all the “non-horseman trainers”, which sadly is probably 80% of the trainers

          • betterthannothing

            Or cheap owners strictly in for the money, a deadly combo since horses are grossly under-protected from mediocrity and all sorts of abuse.

        • Beach

          It’s sort of like what I heard Mr. Hancock say about Woody Stephens, albeit I think he was talking more about race day: “He wouldn’t let a veterinarian in the barn unless the horse was three-legged-lame or had a fever”…that’s close to summing it up.

    • Beach

      I think the issue is that the thyroid supplement is available only by prescription and/or veterinary pharmacy. Now, perhaps some trainers are ordering it on the internet, but a prescription is still most likely required. If a vet is writing a script for the whole barn, and/or supplying the whole barn, he/she should have his/her license reviewed, IMHO. If the regulatory board is NOT reviewing such actions, then it is also falling down on the job, to the detriment of the horse.

  • Sunny D

    I’ve worked in a lot of barns in several countries, and it always shocks me when I ask why certain things are being fed, and no one has an answer for me. A lot of it is “voodoo”, old remedies that went out 100 years ago. Some natural, many not. Yet very few horsemen, trainers or grooms have any idea why they are feeding it. The racing industry is so mired in the past when it comes to “barn” remedies, and yet have horses on the top end of the athletic scale and vets with cutting edge technologies and revolutionary research. It’s really no wonder so many break down.
    Clenbuterol, bute, omeprazole, thyroid powder down the hatch of every horse in the barn as a routine and yet most have no idea why they are doing it. They just got told to do it, or learned from another trainer.
    I wish tracks had classes on nutrition, medications, injuries and really basic care such as taking temps. The lack of educated horsemen on the backside of most tracks I’ve worked on is crazy.

    • Ron Mcneil

      i couldn’t agree more! here is a typical scenario; a trainer hits a hot streak (clean, no help, after-all everyone does), other trainers ask/talk about so-and-so, what is he doing, what is he using….you reply that so-and-so is putting ocean rocks in the horses feed tubs, 2 out of 100 trainers will ask how it works, it sounds bizarre…BUT the other 98 will put the rocks in the feed tubs without blinking an eye. the tackman can’t keep up with all the orders for ocean rocks!

      • Tongger

        I’ll give you another example. The floodgates for instant trainers really opened up when the claiming (mandatory claim-raise rule) rule was changed 15 years ago. So you claim a horse on Saturday for 15,000, you bring the horse back to the barn and the vet checks him out. The vet says the horse has an ankle & suggest tapping Monday and ask what you claimed the horse for. The vet suggest it is the best decision to run the horse back for 10 or 12.5, walk the horse for a few days and then JOG the horse for 1-2 days. You run the horse back the following Saturday for 12,500 (and aggressively pre-race).

        The horse wins and gets claimed, everyone wins (except the horse). You are a GENIUS, your owner is very happy, he wants to claim more horses (afterall this is an easy game), your vet adds to his riches and the racing secretary filled the 12,500 race.

        • bob

          Remember the game Hot Potato

      • ginger2000

        Sad but true!!

    • Marion N.

      Totally agree with you! I also worked for years at the backsides, in Europe and here. And I also failed to get any answers to my questions, mostly due to the lack of knowledge. As rider one has to be fearless in this sport, and I was. But I decided for myself that I was not willing to accept the *additional* risk of injury or death due to the widespread use of drugs with American horses. I actually wrote a book about my personal experiences of these differences. It’s more than about time to get all drugs / meds out of this sport, but also to expect more knowledge before handing out licenses.

    • Beach

      Omeprazole and the other proton-pump inhibitors have a VERY short half-life, at least in humans. The med flies around the system, plugs up the proton pumps(ie, which secrete stomach acid) for a time much LONGER than the half-life, and then the drug exits the system. The benefit of this is that the med does its job with very few side effects or drug interactions.

      But I think that, clenbuterol/albuterol used with unnecessary thyroid powder, which could be making a lot of the animals HYPERthyroid, plus exercise, is an easy and sick recipe for excess cardiac stimulation, and thus possibly death.

      I honestly feel sick writing this. I can’t believe that anyone calling him/herself “veterinarian” or “doctor” would ever do that to an animal. Veterinary Board, are you awake?!!

      • Sunny D

        Many vets don’t actually give the prescription for ALL the horses that get the meds. Dr. Vet gives it to ONE horse who may truly need it, and some really do at some point in time. Yet trainer thinks- “hey good for one, good for all” and uses the tub of X prescribed to Blue Boy on every 4 legged beastie in the barn.

        I can honestly say, likely 98% of the meds I’ve seen administered to horses in barns (not just race barns either) were NOT prescribed to said horse by the vet. I do not absolve the track vets from their role at all, but once that jar or tube or bottle leaves the vet’s truck, they have ZERO control over who actually gets it. Pretty impossible to police.

        That said, I strongly believe the AAEP and the like should be getting their noses in the track business FAR more than they do because they DO have the power to make changes and make hurt if vets are being negligent.

        I am however one of the ones who do not believe every vet record needs transparency, at least not publicly. To stewards or an advisory/oversight type of board sure, and in the case of breakdowns they shoul dbe turned in immediately. But Johnny Public is vastly ignorant of horses in general, medications and basic care. All of the meds being abused have their day and place in equine husbandry as any horseman knows. The abuse of them will not likely be documented in the records anyways unless all these meds end up relegated to veterinary administration. I strongly feel the general public lacks the knowledge to understand the true theraputic uses of medications and i don’t think many will actually educate themselves, to say nothing of PETA getting in there too.

        Records tend to be cold and without insight into the motives behind treatments. They do not tell you how long a barn has been treating something since not all injuries require vet attention immediately. They don’t tell you why a trainer opts to go for one treatment over another, why they waited an extra few days to treat or how long the condition was present beforehand. I honestly do not believe the public has enough knowledge to accurately judge medical files and it would be far more damaging to the sport, and detrimental to the horses too as people get less likely to manage pain and injury in fear of public recriminations.

        • ginger2000

          You make an excellent point regarding medical records “transparency”. I doubt that what shouldn’t be done will be on those records if they were mandated to be shown to stewards, etc. I agree too about the public not having access in normal situations. Something will be on those records – to justify billing – but it won’t necessarily be the truth.

        • Beach

          To use a silly phrase, it all sounds too loosey-goosey to me. It reflects badly on the trainers if they’re overstepping, and badly on the vets if they’re sloppy or too trusting. It’s one thing if an Rx is left for, say, antibiotics administration, “one pill or injection twice a day for 14 days”(I’m pulling that out of thin air, e.g.), but if you leave laying around a whole canister of Thyro-L for everyone to have a “spoonful” in their feed, regardless of which horse it was originally for, and whether or not(likely not) everyone needs it; then, yes, there’s a lot of your(as described) sloppy negligence(my phrase) right there. :/ Ugh…

    • ginger2000

      Boy, you have hit the nail on the head!

  • cal gal

    we use it for our mare that only would get in foal every other year, love it, now every year

    • Beach

      That, as opposed to rampant oversupplementation, makes sense as long as the mare is tested re: thyroid function. In humans, hypothyroidism can wreak havoc on fertility. Wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same in horses.

      • Beach

        PS–Sorry, according to the article above, thyroid supplementation in the horse is a symptom-driven(not “labs”/bloodwork) exercise. But in your horse’s case, the infertility was the symptom, obviously. Hope your mare is doing great now. :)

    • yes master

      I encountered a T-4 problem with Yes master’s dam. Had difficulty with her fertility and ran the endocrine tests including T-4 and ended up she was treated with Thyro-L and it proved to be very beneficial. However, she was tested every 3-6 months for T-4 level and ultimately taken off 18 months later.

  • Ann Maree

    Drugs, drugs and more drugs! What is the latest “study” supposedly being urged by the Jockey Club: Jockey Club urging potential Salix study. DRUGS ARE THE PROBLEM FOLKS, legal or otherwise! All of these drugs work on some level and the efficacy of a drug for a specific problem on a specific horse is not the issue. Widespread use across the board on any and all horses is just insane for ANY drug. On the issue of Lasix and this new “study”, they know it works on a certain percentage of horses, the question has always been, why treat all horses, because many are not helped and some bleed anyway (SA study says as much); also, different training, conditioning and husbandry techniques can do as much or more to control the issue for the ones who have a problem. The rest of the world deals with the issue without drugs. The negative side effects of Lasix (along with the side effects of the thyroid drug under discussion here) are not insignificant. No more studies are needed, in my view, just a smokescreen to appease those who continue to want to keep wide use of the drug in the U.S. In 2011, the Jockey Club came out to phase out Lasix; wonder what this new study is all about and why a change in their announced support to get Lasix out of the sport in the U.S. Just beating the subject to death and not making any progress. As much as I hate the idea, it will take Congress to end this standoff between those who want the status quo and those who believe the sport will not survive if we don’t clean up the drug culture in the U.S.

  • Beach

    “Hypothyroidism in horses is characterized by a fatty, cresty neck,
    resistance to losing weight despite exercise, lethargy, a poor hair
    coat, and even decreased temperature or anemia in extreme cases.”

    I doubt anyone in their right mind would want to race an animal suffering from all that anyway.

    “That metabolism becomes even higher with the addition of thyroxine,
    which runs $24 or less per month depending on the size of the dose

    Aha!! It’s relatively cheap, which also would not deter use.

    Money sentence in the whole article:

    “Blea said that thanks to historical records of necropsies on California
    tracks and other archived data, a better understanding of thyroxine and
    possible links to cobalt are just around the corner.”

    Which may mean that the can of worms is REALLY about to open.

    It is interesting to know that testing T3/T4/TSH levels in horses will not always tell you what you need. But this does state that thyroid treatment in the horse is, basically, symptom-driven–and I find it hard to believe that EVERY horse in a barn would be symptomatic and require this kind of thing. I also wonder how many horses may have exhibited symptoms of HYPERthyroidism on this, yet the dosing was never stopped.

    Just see one person suffering from what is sometimes called “Thyroid Storm”–and the last thing I’d want to do is attempt making him or her run around a track. I also think any jockey getting on the back of a horse that may be hyperthyroid is a fool, and the money involved is immaterial. How much is your life worth?

    Prayers for the horses…

    • betterthannothing

      “”Blea said that thanks to historical records of necropsies on California
      tracks and other archived data, a better understanding of thyroxine and
      possible links to cobalt are just around the corner.”

      Which may mean that the can of worms is REALLY about to open.”

      There is no guarantee that these guys will open that can of worms much less identify any of the perps (especially if they run many horses) unless they are forced to (like in the Baffert-7-known-sudden-death case after the PR exposed that scandalous carnage and demanded answers). Based on thousands of necropsies UC Davis $ Co. have already performed for the CHRB, I suspect that major cans of worms have already been opened privately, not publicly despite tax-payers paying for them.

      • Beach

        I realize my key word was “may”–but I hope they do open it.

    • Nancy Taylor

      There will be no cans of worms opened in California. The foxes are in total control of the hen houses and the status quo will remain, no matter how many horses drop dead from Thyroxine or Cobalt abuse. Too much money being made by the vets and the super trainers using this stuff to stop them.

  • Mary Jo

    Shame on the vets who prescribe thyroxine! And we wonder why there has not been a Triple Crown winner since 1978? Bet Affirmed didn’t get thyroxine. I also question the widely advertised “supplements”. Who knows what the long term and synergistic affects are of these drugs.

    • Tinky

      I would advise you not to over-romanticize trainers from that era (or earlier).

      • Mary Jo

        I am not “romanticizing” anyone. Just making a statement that Affirmed probably didn’t get thyroxine. Probably no horses did back then as it probably wasn’t an option.

    • forestwildcat

      You are not going to take a good horse and make them a great horse by giving them thyroxine and thyroxine has absolutely nothing too do with the lack of triple Crown winners

      • Mary Jo

        Since you are not grasping my point, let me make it simple for you – the meds that are used today, as well as the supplements MAY have an untoward affect on TB’s running today. Since such use is ubiquitous today’s TB’s cannot win a Triple Crown (3 races in 5 weeks)

        • forestwildcat

          Medication and commercial breeding have no doubt diluted the gene pool and we have been a lip a neck and just a length or two from several Triple Crowns in recent history. There’s nothing easy about it and that’s the way it should be.

        • mdwalk

          So we had this large time between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973) then three TC winners in the 70’s so I guess it was evil trainers and owners and poor breeding between 1948 and 1973 that accounts for no TC winner ?

      • ptrckj7777

        besides drug use in racing was more prevalent in the 60’s,70’s and the 80’s

  • Pbchi

    I have followed this issue with, at first curiosity, and then shock. I am an endocrinologist(human and initially I could not believe that this hormone was being given so indiscriminately and with such negative effects to horse. There is no metabolic advantage to thyroid hormone levels beyond that normally present. Anything beyond that has nothing but increasingly bad effects on the health and safety of any mammal. Many years ago, in medicine, we went through a period where thyroid hormone was abused as a weight loss method since it does increase metabolic rates but this was rapidly discredited and is never legitimately given to humans except for thyroid deficiency or to suppress the activity of the thyroid gland in certain condtions of enlargement of the gland..; Hopefully, the racing world will accept this scientific reality and eliminate the use of thyroid hormone except in rare cases of documented insufficiency.

    • As an endocrinologist you also should know that normal thyroid is a range and not a specific number. We could both be low normal and one of us could have issues and the other one not. And you also should know that the simple blood test is not always the best way to determine thyroid is not the more complicated full panel thyroid test. I have a dog that tested in the normal range but on the low end. The symptoms he exhibited were mild at best. Once treated, he has done much better. And what we have found is that he needs to be on the middle to high end of the range. And different species sometimes utilize things differently than humans. So what needs to be determined is how horses are affected by thyroid replacement and whether the doses are actually enough to have an effect on thyroid function. And this is true of a lot of drugs used in both humans and animals. Not saying you are incorrect, just that more scientific work needs to be done on horses to see how it affects their thyroid levels and to determine what, if any, detrimental effects occur. Remember that we can take acetaminophen but it is toxic to cats and used carefully in dogs. Granted I am not an endocrinologist but I majored in biochemistry.

      • Beach

        I don’t think either one of you is wrong and I am glad you both wrote in; especially Pbchi. I’m a nurse practitioner and re: this issue I have already told the story of the endocrinologist and prof I worked with who had a hypothyroid female patient who asked him to make her a “little hyperthyroid” on the medication just to keep her weight where she wanted it. God bless him; his answer to that was not only “no”, it was “Hell, no”, and she needed to remain euthyroid on medication(and without symptoms) and obtain diet and exercise counseling to keep her weight where she wanted it–for all the above reasons(detrimental side effects, etc.) that you just reinforced.

        Other than that, everyone here is probably tired of my rants re: the injudicious use of “global” thyroid medication in horses, “feeding thyroid”(Mr. Asmussen talking about that medically unsound practice as if he’s flicking lint off his sleeve) as a matter of course, and giving the stuff to the whole barn in the(probably) absence of abnormal lab values, symptoms, or both. To quote the military, I think it’s “unsat”.

    • Bill Casner

      Thyro-L has been abused for years but it has become standard procedure in so many of the big barns across the country. I have railed on its use for several years but it has fallen on deaf ears until the PETA video. Thyro-L will make 2yo’s become more PRECOCIOUS and get them to the races quicker. It elevates their metabolism and they will train and RUN more aggressively. As an endocrine hormone it produces a “negative feedback” to the thyroid gland when administered exogenously. The thyroid gland senses the high levels and quits producing its own spectrum of hormones. With continual administration, you have a thyroid gland that becomes atrophied and is unable to function. These horses are on a path to crash. With continual administration they will sustain for 12 to 14 months and then they start to decline. The result is that they are usually taken out of training and given a “breather” and the crash is ugly. They are dramatically under weight, their hair coat is terrible, they are lethargic with low appetite and it takes a lot of time for them to recover.
      It is DRUG ABUSE in every sense of the term and its use on the racetrack should be outlawed.
      The only way it can be cleaned up is thru Federal Legislation that creates central governance under United States Antidoping Administration (USADA) which is non-profit, non-governmental agency that cleaned up the sport of of cycling.
      The time is now to get it done.

      • ginger2000

        It is truly disgusting what trainers and vets will do to horses, all the while applauding their majesty and saying how much they love them. It is drug abuse, as are many other practices. It IS time to get it to stop.. Period. That list of 26 approved drugs is crap. It is just a list of drugs that can be “legally” abused.

      • betterthannothing

        Bill Casner: is Thyro-L used by some $#^%$ to make 2 year olds move like Quarter horses at breeze sales and contribute to most of those babies needing weeks to recover from such greedy insanity?

      • Beach

        That’s a good and true pathophysiology lesson. Were I you, I’d make sure my horses were with a trainer that doesn’t do that kind of stuff. Among other things, the thyroid and its function are not to be dallied with. In any horse, not just 2-year-olds–but think hard, folks: Would you provide unnecessary thyroid supplementation to your ~ 12-year-old child because you wanted him/her to play his/her middle school sports better?!! I think the horses deserve similar consideration.

  • Kris

    Get all drugs out of our sport once and for all! Only a sick or injured horse should receive anything that can be construed as a drug.

  • forestwildcat

    I used thyro-l quite a bit in the show horses but only on heavy necked hard to fit horses and they had too be on it several months before you would see any difference and at the same time you put them on it you might change training, feed, etc… so who’s to say if the thyro -l did anything at all. It was part of the shotgun approach too improve the physique of the horse and I never really thought it did anything but it made me feel better. Haven’t used it in years and cant imagine I ever will.

  • Tonto

    Most ‘trainers’ have very little (no) knowledge of nutrition or physiology. It is frightening see the products given with no knowledge of side effects or long term results _some of the Vets are no better- last book they read was when they passed their State Boards. and rely on salesmen for their info.

    • ginger2000

      You are ever so right!!!

  • Mimi Hunter

    The concoctions given to horses [using just about every delivery system I’ve ever heard of] really boggle the mind. Usually the different combinations are guarded secrets and each considered a magic bullet, gold plated, etc Each trainer has his/her own mixture, topical ointment, training regime, and credits that regime with his/her win record. If there isn’t a win record, then something is missing, poor post position, got interfered with also etc. Changing this around so no dangerous or illegal things get to the horse, won’t be easy, and just saying it isn’t allowed probably won’t have much effect unless it’s accompanied by a ban from the track [‘s’ – all of them] Most of this stuff has been handed down father to son, trainer to apprentice, etc since time began. I don’t think educating trainers to nutrition, meds, etc will make a lot of difference [As suggested by Sunny D in the next message.]. Each trainer will think that their regime is an exception to the rules because ‘it works’

  • Teresa Bossow

    I had a horse on Tyrol-l and he needed it. Blood tests confirmed his need and was tested regularly to confirmed he was on the right dose. I screwed up once and gave my other horse the feed bucket with the Tyrol-l in it and he sweat all night and his breathing was erratic. You just don’t mess with drugs and metabolism.

  • Barry Irwin

    Excellent article. Imagine if the words horse, veterinarian, stable, trainer and track were substituted with football player, physician, university, coach and NCAA. How big of a scandal would this be and how many heads would roll and what type of sanctions/investigations and congressional.senatorial hearings would be conducted? Medication has gotten completely out of control and the only reason it isn’t as big a scandal as it should be is that the abuse of the system has been so great that it has marginalized our sport to a great extent.

    • ginger2000

      Well said Barry.

    • Beach

      This has been part of my point in the past: Why is this not ok to do to humans, or for humans to foolishly do it to themselves, but it IS ok to do it to equine athletes?!! I know YOU don’t feel that way; but, overall… :/

    • betterthannothing

      Horse racing always had its share of shadowy, abusive miscreants. However, modern racing with its total focus on speed and its shameless amassing of dirty money from sales, to trainer offices, vets, various groups and executive offices, has attracted and rewarded hordes of abusers and shysters who go after rich, naive buyers, rich purses and casino subsidies by numbing and drugging horses with anything and everything they and their vets can find. Wrongdoing, including cruelty and endangerment, is the norm and looks right in an industry as compromised and numb as the legs of its athletes.

      • ginger2000

        Well said, and sadly so true!

  • Vudu

    Voodoo, yes. Rally caps at the ready.
    Jockeys who don’t shave, extend their streak, though the impact on wind resistance is appalling.

    Perhaps Eucalyptus Oil for bettors &
    Gingko-Biloba for horses that forget where the finish line is?

  • ginger2000

    Finally a track is doing something about drugs!!! I actually posted this idea on the PR and now it is a reality. Someone else must have had it as well.

    “Arapahoe Park has announced it has created a “Race-Day Medication-Free Incentive” program to reward horsemen who do not administer race-day medication to their horses.

    The Aurora, Colorado, track said that beginning June 27 trainers who win a race with a horse void of any race-day medication will receive a $1,000 bonus per victory to be paid from a special fund created by Arapahoe Park. Trainers must be stabled at Arapahoe Park for the entire meet to be eligible for the bonuses. The bonuses will be paid out at the end of the season that concludes on Aug. 17.

    In a release, Arapahoe said the “Race-Day Medication-Free Incentive” is being launched to encourage trainers to go beyond the letter of the law that permits only furosemide (Salix), phenylbutazone (Bute), flunixin (Banamine), and ketoprofen (Ketofen) on race day in Colorado.

    “The future of racing is going to be race-day medication-free, and we at Arapahoe Park want to be ahead of the curve,” said Bruce Seymore, executive director of Mile High Racing and Entertainment, Arapahoe Park’s parent company. “We in Colorado already have one of the strictest testing procedures in the country. This new Race-Day Medication-Free Incentive allows us to continue to improve our standards.””

    How terrific is that???

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