As I said at the beginning of this marathon endeavor, I went to the Race Day Medication Summit mostly to learn and without any prior opinions on the use of Lasix. And after nearly nine hours of presentations and panels, I do feel like I learned a lot, but I’m not sure that I’m any closer to forming an opinion on the use of race day furosemide than I was before.
I learned that bleeding is bad for horses not just during the incident itself, but that it has long-term consequences on a horse’s health.
I learned that what constitutes “bleeding” varies widely; some horsemen use the term to describe bleeding in a horse’s lungs, others to describe bleeding from a horse’s nostrils.
I learned that horsemen seem to agree that environment plays a significant role in bleeding, and that training environments vary widely in the United States and Europe.
I learned that at least one study shows that if administered as recommended/required, furosemide does not mask the presence of other drugs in a horse’s urine, and that it has no effect on the detection of drugs in a horse’s blood.
I learned that all the people who spoke at the summit, regardless of where they came from or what their stance on Lasix is, have horses’ care in mind, and that what constitutes “taking care of a horse” doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.
I didn’t learn anything about the effect of furosemide on bone density, or whether using the medication has any long-term ill effects on horses. I learned that bleeding seems to be an inherited trait.
I learned that there are a lot of people out there, in the comments section here and elsewhere, who are willing to believe the worst of U.S. trainers, who imply that they’re liars and cheaters and that they don’t really care about horses, only about winning and money.
I learned that there are good reasons to use Lasix to treat bleeding in horses, and that whether horses that bleed should be allowed to race invites a number of opinions.
I learned that many of the people who spoke last Monday believe that eliminating Lasix will be an expensive proposition for owners, in terms of purse money lost, increased security, horses possibly taken off the track.
I learned that some members of the international racing community are concerned about U.S. racing isolating itself from the rest of the world, and that European breeders don’t seem to be as interested as they used to be in U.S.-bred horses.
I also learned that according to the panelists, international horsemen not currently using Lasix don’t seem particularly interested in doing so.
I learned that even in an all-day meeting, only a limited number of perspectives can be shared.
I learned that there’s a difference of opinion about whether lower level horses will be more adversely affected by a Lasix ban than will be more accomplished runners.
I learned that the use of race day Lasix is an emotional issue, and that it’s also a scientific issue, a medical issue, and a financial issue.
I learned that some U.S.-based horsemen are open to the possibility of talking about what it would mean to train without having Lasix available on race day.
I learned that race day Lasix, like so many other issues in racing, is multi-variable: that a variety of perspectives have validity, that it’s tough to isolate one factor as the cause of any phenomenon, that drawing cause-and-effect relationships will, and should, take time and money.
And that’s not going to satisfy anyone who wants major changes, made now.