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Monday, May 12, 2008

Still Thinking About Eight Belles? Leading Vet Hogan Suggests That Thoroughbreds Could Learn A Lot From Standardbreds

Dr. Patty Hogan in surgery

Carol Hodes, former media relations director for the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, has posted a terrific interview with one of my favorite sources, Patty Hogan VMD, ACVS of the new Hogan Equine Clinic LLC in Cream Ridge, New Jersey.

Two years ago, it was Hogan who testified against her veterinary brethren in front of the US Congress, and explained why she was not aligning herself with AVMA and AAEP political positions regarding slaughter of horses for meat. She didn’t like the idea of the whole horse meat slaughter industry and she gave poignant compelling reasons why. Congress listened.

So when Eight Belles died tragically on the track at the end of the Kentucky Derby, journalist Hodes turned to Hogan for insight. Hogan, after all, is often described as the veterinarian who saved Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, and she is the AAEP’s “On Call” veterinarian for some harness races that are televised.

Carol’s entire interview with Hogan is posted on the HarnessLink web site in New Zealand. I highly recommend you follow this link and read the entire interview, but here are a few savvy comments from one of the best industry’s most independent thinkers and leading surgeons.

This fall, Hogan will take over as head surgeon of the new Ruffian Equine Medical Center at Belmont Park, owned by IEAH, who also own 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown.

Hogan: “I’ve seen horses break both ankles, in fact I repaired one this past week that came to me with a fracture in one hind leg, and I repaired it. When he got up, the other leg was broken. He was a thoroughbred with bilateral injuries, similar to hers, but not so severe. But that’s so rare.

“For it to occur at the end of the race is very unusual. She [Eight Belles] must have had enormous fatigue, and that’s just puzzling. I know she was very well taken care of. I don’t think there was any smoke and mirrors there. That trainer [Larry Jones] is very honest. I don’t think the jock [Gabriel Saez] deserves the criticism he’s received at all.”

“I’m sure genetics has played a role because [catastrophic injury] has increased in recent years. A lot of horses that have retired to be bred are not necessarily the most durable horses. They’ve hurt themselves after one or two races, and then they are sent to be bred.”

From there, the interview heads in a new direction: why don’t Standardbreds break down the way that Thoroughbreds do? Hogan’s practice is evenly divided between the two breeds. Hode digs for some answers and Hogan supplies some good ones:

“(Standardbreds) are being bred for speed and they’re getting sore, but they don’t kill themselves. The horses that end up going to the breeding shed, at least with the stallions, they’re the ones that have performed incredibly well and raced well.”

“The prognosis is always better for standardbreds than it is for thoroughbreds. They always come back from everything. I definitely have a different set of prognoses that I can give for a standardbred vs. a thoroughbred even if it is exactly the same injury. It’s rare for a standardbred to founder or have laminitis as a result of having an injury in the other leg. With a thoroughbred it’s a huge priority.”

Thanks to and Carol Hodes for the good work on this interview.


Anonymous said...

First off, Standardbreds do NOT race in the same manner TB's do. There is absolutely NO comparison. Standardbreds do not have weight on their backs and of course are not going to have the concussion like TB's do.
It is apples and oranges to compare the two. That is like comparing a western pleasure horse with a reining horse. They both have western saddles, wear western bits, but are going to be trained differently. You will see injuries unique to their discipline.

I don't care what age, breed, or discipline you go with, there are always going to be "issues" others don't agree with.

If this had been a small money claiming race, there would not have been an issue raised.

Lets focus on the starving children in our country and all our jobs heading out of the country. That should be our PRIORITY!

Ms.Paris said...

The focus of 99.99999% of people is human welfare... let us small percentage focus on the horses, we aren't hurting anyone.

And while I agree that comparing TBs and Standardbreds is difficult in that there are so many differentials, you make a good point when you say that TBs are carrying weight while the Standardbreds are not. Carrying 120pounds on the back of 2 or 3 year old is hard work. But 120 pounds is nothing for a big healthy, full grown TB. Perhaps the racing industry should seriously consider no racing 2 year olds if they are not physically ready to carry the weight of a 120 pound jockey.

Also, while comparing the two breeds is difficult, I cannot deny that it quite compelling evidence that a vet would say a standardbred has a much better prognosis than a TB for the SAME INJURY!