The article New Uproar Over a Controversial Drug (May 22) by Douglas S. Looney was excellent. We believe that you have made a major contribution to increasing the public's awareness of the greed and thoughtlessness that prompt the use of Butazolidin.
We would particularly like to comment on one point. The author correctly states that owners "want action for their $600 to $1,000 a month per horse training expenses" and that racing secretaries "desperately need horses to fill races." The suggestion is implicit that without Bute-filled horses, thoroughbred racing and the revenues which derive from it would dry up. That is contrary to all evidence. The number of races increased 83% from 1960 to the present. However, the number of runners increased 108% and the number of thoroughbred foals registered with the Jockey Club increased an astounding 138%. In fact, since 1960 the rate of increase of thoroughbred foals has been 50% greater than the rate of increase in the number of races.
On that basis alone it could scarcely be contended that there is any economic necessity for running injured horses in order to fill the gates on American tracks.
Illinois Hooved Animal
Your article on the Bute controversy presented both the emotional and the realistic aspects of the issue in a well-written manner.
Racehorses are similar to athletes. The vast majority of them have either small injuries or breathing problems, such as asthma, but are still able to compete. No parent of the average high school football player or gymnast objects to his child receiving a mild medication for a small injury or asthma. Yet it is considered by many cruel to medicate a horse in a similar manner.
Never in my years at the racetrack have I seen Butazolidin make a lame horse sound. If given a massive amount of Bute a lame horse will improve, but even the most un-knowledgeable person will still be able to see" that the horse is unfit to race.
JAMES R. WOODS, D.V.M.
Equine Clinics, Inc.
Butazolidin has suffered unfairly ever since a barrage of misinformation was handed out by the media during the 1968 Kentucky Derby incident. As a pony girl with a bad knee, I can speak from experience with horse racing and with Bute. After I had three major knee operations, my doctor prescribed Bute to relieve the pain and swelling. While the relief I get is nothing short of miraculous, I am still not able to go out and play tennis or jog or ski—no matter how good the knee feels.
Most athletes are medicated to some extent to relieve the routine aches and pains they suffer. Horses are athletes, so why shouldn't they be medicated for their routine aches and pains? And please note, I am talking about aches and pains, not lameness. The problem is not with medication, but with overmedication. As long as horsemen are pressured to fill the ever-increasing number of racing days, the problem will always exist.
Newport Beach, Calif.
In the article the impression was given that there is little medical opinion supporting the contention that it is harmful to race an injured horse on anti-inflammatory drugs such as Butazolidin. Actually, there is an abundance of veterinary textbooks and research papers cautioning against such a practice.
Lameness in Horses, edited by O. R. Adams, D.V.M., M.S., which is one of the most frequently used textbooks on equine orthopedic medicine, states that phenylbutazone in many cases "is used to alleviate symptoms of lameness without allowing sufficient rest for healing of the part. In this case, additional damage is done to the joint while the horse goes on with racing workouts. This eventually leads to a complete degeneration of the joint." This text also points out that too often "phenylbutazone therapy allows the horse to be used, causing further injury before healing has taken place."