Our Culture of Victimization: Lasix is Welfare for Horses

“Oh these poor horses, their lungs bleed when we race ‘em, so let’s give them a drug to make that go away.”

“Oh these poor people, they are so unfortunate that we should give them food stamps, subsidized rent, and a free cell phone to help them out.”

It’s going to be impossible for me to stick with this analogy without letting my political beliefs seep into the post. Screw it, the mainstream media can’t write a story without their biases shining through, why should a lowly blogger be any different? I love seeing the Paulick Report complain about biased NYT/MSNBC reporting on drugs in horseracing – where is all that outrage when these same outlets lie and falsify information while attacking all other issues that don’t jibe with your liberal agendas?

Now the Ray Paulicks and Jennie Rees’ of the world know how the other half of the country feels reading/watching this primetime propaganda on a daily basis. Welcome to the club. Fun, isn’t it? You hypocrites are supposed to merely report the news, not opine on it like a salesman of a product. Now, take your medicine as you are exposed to the drivel that fills the network airwaves.

Back to the topic. Lasix and welfare are both well meaning ideas that have proven to weaken, not strengthen, the recipients well-being. Watch an episode of ‘Intervention’ some day, when you have a person who is making poor decisions in his life with drugs or alcohol, the last thing to do is further enable that addict by rewarding that behavior. Human welfare creates a culture of victimization where the ‘beneficiaries’ of the aid develop ‘woe is me’ victimization complexes that make succeeding in life even more difficult. I’ve been a 30+ year old who has had to ask his parents for money, it doesn’t do much good for the old self esteem, let me tell you that.

Same with horses; when you address a weakness with an artificial pharmaceutical solution – you only create a culture of treating these horses like pieces of fine china, racing them less, working them less, etc. The result? Horses with brittle bones and swiss cheese like ligaments/tendons that run a big race or two in their careers and then are off to the breeding shed, or more likely the retirement farm. Just yesterday I had a breeder tell me how you have to go easy on today’s horses because we have bred weaker bones into their lower legs in an effort to find ‘speed’. That is only half the picture, the other half is that bones are alive and exercising them at speed makes them stronger:


Just 15% of horses bleed enough in the lungs to be a problem, and probably a like number of humans are truly victims of circumstance and also deserve our help. Sadly, 95% of horses get the diuretic Lasix and hundreds of thousands of Americans swell the welfare doles who are perfectly capable of earning a living. Chaos eventually ensues, as neither is a sustainable system.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is at play in both cases. Human suffering and thoroughbred performance are inherently complex systems, and when a simple-minded intervention is introduced to solve a single issue (Lasix for horses, welfare for humans), well… the rest of the system gets all screwed up. What started out as a noble action has turned into a destructive one. Now, through the most recent Senate intervention into our wonderful sport – the floodgates to government involvement have been opened – I can just see the 2016 headlines now:

“The IRS today hired 1,600 new agents to administer the Uniform Drug Rules for Horseracing Act. (This is not a tax)”


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on July 14, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. If only the writer of the cartoon above knew s/he had written a run-on sentence. That said, I don’t think media exists outside of bias, but surely the writers, producers, etc. could try harder. Have you watched “The Newsroom” yet?

    • I don’t think that is meant to be a sentence, as there is no period.

      I’m not a big TV watcher, outside of sports. But I know who Aaron Sorkin is and I’m not watching anything written by that buffoon. Big Koch money is corrupting but Big Union money isn’t? I can get that pitch from NYT/MSNBC/NBC/ABC/CBS/CNN/etc. anytime I want to hear it.

      And please don’t misunderstand, I am fully aware the Fox News is just as biased for the other side. But hearing mainstream media call FNC biased is the height of absurdity.

      • I’m showing my age, but “Right on, Bill!!!” Could not agree more with all your thoughts on this issue. Along with daily red meat about the horseracing industry the two “guys” at the NYT feed their dwindling number of readers, others are reporting on THEM, the Times, the scandals, the loss of revenue (many are aghast they are selling ads on the front page! oh, dear!), are all speaking much louder than these two with their poisened pens. They are being drowned out by their own excesses. Recent surveys reveal a dying industry, print newspapers, and in many of those surveys, readers evidently don’t believe much of what they print, anyway. I mean, we all stand in line at the grocery checkout and read those tittilating headlines in the tabloids. To me, the Times is nothing more than one of those tabloids. Nothing it prints has the ring of truth anymore. All the news that’s fit to print, as well as that which isn’t fit to print. Ugh! I’m a dyed-in-the-wool advocate for removing all raceday medications and believe in the orderly phasing out over time to be an achievable goal. Do not understand Rees’ position, at all. I guess the rest of the world is wrong, and only the U.S. has the answers. Yeah! Right!

  2. Phillip Haycock

    I’m of the opinion that there are realistic parallels between the American racing industry and NewZealands historical speculative residential housing construction industry.
    Our building industry has experienced a circular boom bust pattern fueled by cheap finance and inflated speculative supply.
    An economist may say that while these patterns aren’t desirable in an economy, one persons loss will be another’s gain and a balance will be reached.
    Unfortunately the reality is that all to often the developer and their houses are of dubious quality.
    Nice and shiny on the outside, rotten on the inside.
    This scenario is currently costing NewZealand billions of dollars and destroying countless lives.
    Its my understanding and correct me if I’m wrong, that the American racing industry is flush with moneys paid to it in the form of royalties from other gambling codes.
    This may be seen as cheap money, money that fuels speculation (Breeding and racing of poor quality and or ill prepared horses).
    This wealth within the industry may also foster a flippant approach to bloodstock and racing.
    My point is that it may well be the shear size and wealth of the American racing industry along with the inevitable shortcomings of men and the free market that is fast destroying the thoroughbred.
    Drugs are not a cause of poor horses but rather an effect of making the horse a commodity.
    Poor design and construction are not the cause of leaky homes, they are the effect of greedy, self serving developers.

  3. Along Bill’s theme of unintended consequences, Phillip has some good thoughts, however, I would like to add this: when you see greedy, self-serving developers (or lenders, or whatever other part of the free enterprise system you want to name), look no further than a politician doling out freebies or passing a law with some mandates “for the good of the people.”. The boom/bust housing industry is the result of some of those pesky unintended consequences Bill talked about. Politicians thought it was a good idea to have anyone who could fog a mirror to be able to own a house, so, they mandated that lenders make easy loans, and the government insured those loans. There was also a “social agenda” component, as well. A lot of the folks who got those easy loans had decent credit, but, instead of saving and putting something down, they borrowed, in some cases, 110% of the value of the home, or they got interest-only loans. When the reality check in the form of the recession hit, and life events caused a change in their circumstances, they had no cushion to fall back on. If they needed to sell, they couldn’t, because as housing prices dropped, so did the appreciation they had counted on to bail them out. These same dynamics play out in horseracing like in everything else. There are lessons there for the “sport of kings”, as Bill points out. There ain’t no free lunch!

  4. P.S. I don’t really think there’s all that much money flowing into the industry, or if it is, in some places, that support is being withdrawn. Hungry local governments are looking for sources of money, as well. A track in Canada recently announced it is closing, and even the historic Woodbine has said if the support they have been receiving is taken away, the home of the oldest continuously run race in North America is in danger of closing. A sport that continues to receive subsidies from other forms of gambling is basically on life support. The thin economics of the breeding industry have caused buyers to look only for early maturing/speed horses, and durability and stamina have been sacrificed. More and more of our horses are forced into early retirement from injuries, only to limp off to stud to produce more fragile horses with abbreviated racing careers. No, I don’t think the sport is flush with money. On the contrary, I see it as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

  5. jim culpepper

    “Conflicts of interest” through “pinhookers” who buy and sell votes, sub-prime anything, medications and adolescent foals under tack are heartworms in the body politic. This became possible when, forgetting the lessons of the war between the states, both liberal and conservative bought in to the use of citizens (humans) as commodities of consumerism, rendering our economy a form of cannibalism rather than capitalism. Still, I cannot imagine why “trainers” prefer dope to measurements and techniques which give prediction and control in conditioning athletes. Meanwhile, it depends on which consequences that you mean, whether or not they are unintended; President Obama did not mean to out himself, yet he did intend to wet nurse wall street, the banks, &, big pharma and so, proved himself a hard core conservative, with jillions of dollars worth of “liberally” dosed air strikes for any offensive mud hut in any country lest any conservative who is insecure about national insecurity claim that he is soft on three year olds who live in offensive mud huts, but I digress.
    Old time training and breeding, combined with contemporary monitoring must eventually prevail or it all becomes mere quarter horse racing.

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