They mean well, but…

George (Email Exit) has had a chronic cough for the past few weeks. Nothing too serious – no fever or other sign of illness – but enough to make me doubt the wisdom of trucking all the way down to Lyon for his race today. So when he coughed once going out yesterday morning, I called the vet and told him to bring over a scope. I use different vets for different problems; for this, I called on Jerome, our local vet who is pretty competent and is always there when you need him. (He’s also on the expensive side and I don’t trust him on lameness issues, but that’s another story.) George scoped dirty, and I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat relieved not to have to get up at 4 a.m. to drive to Lyon.  That said, I’d rather the horse was 100 percent well.

Jerome didn’t think there was any infection, rather a light bronchitis caused by seasonal irritants. He also saw very slight evidence of bleeding, but very slight. I wasn’t panicked about any of this, because all horses bleed a tiny bit now and then. Jerome, on the other hand, went into full pharmaceutical mode. He recommended treatment with DMSO and a nebulizer for 10 days, while keeping the horse in light work. I was OK with that. Then he said it would be wise to inject 3ccs of Dimazon, a lasix-like diuretic, the morning before working him next. I’m definitely not OK with that. Jerome preceded to argue the benefits of lasix, citing various studies. I’ve read the same studies, and my take on them is 180 degrees from Jerome’s. I explained that yes, of course vets were in favor of lasix. That was what was keeping 80 percent of the U.S. practice in business.

In my experience, a vet’s zealousness for the prescription pad comes in direct proportion to his age and experience. The younger the vet, the heavier the shopping bag at the pharmacy. Hachem, a young associate of Dr. Douay in Chantilly, is a wonderful guy – thorough, patient and extremely competent. But when he looked over Turfani the other day, he came up with a laundry lists of tests we could do and injections to follow to resolve that last bit of hind-end stiffness. I explained to him that the mare was never a great mover behind, because her pelvis is not straight and her joints are fragile. But I also explained that I was retiring her in January, so all we needed to do was decide if she could race another two or three times without undo pain or damage.  Dr. Douay understood that perfectly, suggested a shoeing change that might help and we will leave it at that.

Don’t get me wrong. If a horse has a problem that needs to be treated, it should be treated. But if the problem can’t be resolved reasonably, perhaps that horse shouldn’t be a racehorse. I am absolutely confident that George will come back and win a race in Deauville before the end of the year – without injecting anything to “help” him work. Turfani has at least one more win in her, too. My vet meant very well when he wrote out two pages worth of prescriptions for George. It’s my job as a trainer to do what I think is best for the horse – and that doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything a vet tells you to do.

5 Replies to “They mean well, but…”

  1. Good for you Gina! I think, in the long run, your horses will last longer and race more by respecting their needs and using common sense! It is true that the younger vets lack the experience and vision to understand that the quick fix is not always the best fix!

  2. All the pharmaceuticals are piling into vetinary products (humans live longer, so they want their pets to live longer too). In M&A I see billion deals on this every day. The pharmas are practically sleeping with the vets to incentivise them : volume bonuses, etc, free gifts for prescribing…. I exaggerate perhaps a little, but it’s getting borderline unethical….

    Meanwhile, the regulation and testing for animal drugs has lower standards than for humans, because “hey, they’re just animals” (not my words) and anyway horses don’t take their vets to court (yet) when something goes wrong. While we’re on that subject, I am sure litigation as a future revenue stream will take off for those in the animal industry, since the insurance industry is carving out liability as fast as it jacks up the subscriptions, but I diagress….

    Bottom line, you are bang on to look beyond the vet at the hands that feeds him. He just needs reminding that YOUR hand is one of them and conscienscious (spelling?) trainers do not have their horses tripping in the stables while high on crack.

  3. None of the 4 Euro horses that raced without lasix could win a Breeders Cup race this year (though other years, the non-lasix Euro horses have done well, including Goldikova the first time she raced in the BC Mile.)
    In any case, Gosden raced two horses without lasix, Fabre had one, and Rouget had the other. These trainers, and their owners, should be applauded.

  4. Absolutely agree, Gina. Vets are very highly trained cllinically and the good ones know all the medical options, and the great ones know the nonmedical ones, as well, but we know managing horses’ health and soundness is, and always will be, a combination of science (and not always an exact one) and whole lot of art. It’s the most artful trainers and caretakers that I appreciate. You can’t teach it, you acquire it by observation, trial and error and just plain good instincts and creativity. As a renowned trainer advised a departing disciple: always listen to the horse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.