Hyderabad: Race horses dosed on stress meds

Rest eludes racing beasts as stress, injuries from human errors result in breakdown.

Hyderabad: Behind the romanticised facade of thoroughbred horses at the Hyderabad Race Club in Malakpet is a world of injuries, stress and breakdowns. A secluded medical care centre operating within the club and restricted to trainers exposed the feeble condition of horses there.

Inside, over 30 horses sharing the room with a few fillies (young female horses) were found injected with Astymin-SN (a combination of amino acids with Xylitol). This is a medication given when the animal is under tremendous stress, even though they are not scheduled for a race. The caretakers brushed it aside, calling it a daily affair. But usually Astymin is given seven to 10 days ahead of a race and comes with restrictions.

Not surprisingly, the horses are being pushed beyond their limit during their 5.30 am to 9.30 am rigorous training sessions. Sources told this newspaper that a large number of colts (young male horses) and fillies suffer from abnormal gait (lameness) that results in dysfunction of locomotion, and dislocation of joints due to uneven ground. This has caused a few colts and fillies to retire early for use in horse-riding academies. In 2018, a horse at HRC died due to a colic (cute abdominal pain combined with constipation) condition.

“Usually they are fed oats but the straw consumed by my horse got entangled in its intestines,” said a trainer. “It developed severe abdominal pain and the post-mortem report showed its intestines were twisted. Because of a few mistakes committed by trainers, jockeys and caretakers, we end up losing them.”

He further said: “Every year, we lose 4-5 young horses to constipation. Their condition turns so severe that they are put to sleep.”

Horses are forced to sprint, often under the threat of whips by jockeys, at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries, even lung hemorrhage. “Many also bleed from their nostrils,” he said.

Horses in general don’t like to be restricted to the stable. They can’t take to their enclosures, called paddocks, and develop stress.

Like dogs, even horses fear the noise of crackers. Diwali is the worst time for them. Last Diwali, a horse at HRC hit against the wall and ended up bleeding profusely.

A caretaker who did not want to be named said: “Each stable comprises a minimum of 25 horses, of which at least two are unfit for race at the end of either the monsoon or winter season. Some have suffered a crack in the joint or severe injuries caused by nails or sharp objects. A three-year-old horse was sent home instead of mercy killing due to acute lameness. The risk factor is high, as they are delicate animals.”

Currently, HRC houses over 650 horses, mostly in the age group of 3-5 years. The pack is divided into four rating categories based on their performance history. Each horse is submitted to 30-40 hours of training every morning and it includes 8-10 minutes of walk.

Thoroughbred horses are purchased from stud farms. The cost ranges from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50 to Rs 60 lakh depending on the pedigree. After the horse is certified (called the straight stall certificate) they enter the world of racing.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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