Sadly over the last few years, steroids have found their way into horse racing, not only portraying a bad light on the sport, but also revealing some of the harsh and cruel ways these beautiful animals are treated. In many cases, the criticism for the horse racing industry is completely deserved, and having a unfair and illegal competitive advantage over your opponent should never be allowed. Furthermore, when these advantages are abused, the effect it can have on the animals, as well as the careers of the people involved in the sport can be devastating.

Little do people know however, that there are some steroids that can be beneficial for horses. When applied in the right way, certain steroids can help improve a horse’s health, and the way they perform in races, making it safer for the animal in general.

Naturally occurring steroids can be found in fungi and plants, and some of the most used steroids in the world are even found within animals themselves. From estrogen and cortisol to testosterone and progesterone, these steroids are all naturally occurring and are produced in the body’s glands. Not only do they help to balance and improve the metabolic systems in humans, but they can also be used to strength the immune system too.

Steroid Use In The UK

Recently however, there has been widespread outcry surrounding Mahmood Al Zarooni’s 15 horses that tested positive for anabolic steroids, subsequently causing his eight year ban from the sport. Blaming the use of steroids on a ‘misjudgement’, horse racing in the UK is now under intense global focus, now tarnishing it’s previously impeccable record and participation in the sport.

Worryingly, the outbreak of such ‘misjudgement’ hasn’t stopped there. Last month, another horse trainer, Gerard Butler, is facing an enquiry for using banned steroids on his horses. Butler claims that his horses were given a drug to help them in their recovery for injured joints, and although over 100 of his horses were given the drug, only 9 tested positive for banned steroids. Butler also stated that the drugs were given the all clear by his personal vet, and all injections complied with regulations.

Unfair Advantages

Steroid use on horses isn’t just limited to the UK however, and experts believe that trainers are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate ‘safe’ steroids in conventional horse injury treatment. Vet Medic treatment for horses not only provide first aid, but they also combat lice and other conditions that could affect their performances on the track.

In 2008, the Triple Crown races In America came under media spotlight as it was revealed that Big Brown, the horse that won that year’s races, received regular injections of the steroid called stanozolol, a substance that was known to build the muscles around joints in horses.

Although the steroids complied with industry regulations when they were administered, the horse came in last in the following Triple Crown, where the substance was banned. This is not hard proof that the steroids gave the Big Brown an unfair advantage, however it is cause for concern according to industry insiders. Not only can unregulated steroids cause massive changes in behaviour for horses, but the side effects can also be passed onto their young when breeding.

David is a keen animal lover and has a particular interest in horse racing. Stay tuned for more animal related blogs in the future.