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Lawsuit Focuses on Administering Legal Meds to Horses

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On the morning of the Kentucky Derby this year, I Want Revenge, a favorite to win the Derby was scratched from the legendary horse race for having an injured ankle. Five months later a lawsuit may soon determine what some owners are doing to make sure that their horses make it to the finish line.

IEAH Stables is half owner of I Want Revenge and has filed a lawsuit against David Lanzman, the co-owner. The stables believe that the horse was having problems with his ankle as early as April 7 but that Lanzman did not disclose this information at the time. Lanzman’s attorneys say that is not true and that the injuries to the horse’s front right ankle were detected on the day of the Derby.

Veterinarians for the thoroughbred have testified on more than one occasion that I Want Revenge’s ankle received injections to bring down the inflammation. The doctors stated that the most recent injection was given just four days before the race and was requested by Jeff Mullins, the horse’s trainer.

Currently the United States has the worst mortality rate in the world with regards to their thoroughbreds. In this country the fatality rate for racehorses occurs at a rate of 1.47 per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces and 2.03 per 1,000 starts on dirt tracks. Compare this to England, who has a fatality rate of 0.8 per 1,000 starts and Australia, which has a fatality rate of 0.44 per 1,000 starts an you are starting to see the big picture.

At the forefront is the practice of overmedicating these animals with disregard for the consequences and after effects of these powerful drugs. The veterinarians who were called in to treat I Want Revenge testified that the horse was injected with antibiotics, synthetic joint fluid and corticosteroids.

After winning the Wood Memorial in New York, Mullins noticed that the horse’s ankle was puffed up and swollen. After the horse was X-rayed and an ultrasound performed the trainer called for the vets to administer hyaluronic acid and the corticosteroid Vetalog in I Want Revenge’s right front ankle. Vetalog is used to reduce inflammation very quickly.

While the use of anti-inflammatory medications is common for use in race horses of this caliber, there seems to be an alarming overuse of medications that could ultimately cause harm to these prized animals.

Many people are asking for full disclosure regarding the treatment of these horses. The New York Times asked the owners and trainers of all of the horses participating in the Kentucky Derby to provide the veterinary records of their horses but only three out of 20 owners provided the records.

When asked about the injections and the horse’s injuries, Lanzman referred questions to Mullins, the horse’s trainer claiming he didn’t know anything that was going on. However the outcome of this case is decided it has certainly brought an important issue to the forefront. And the ultimate winner is I Want Revenge who is recuperating from his injuries on a farm in Kentucky.