Friday, December 2, 2011

Confronting Drugs in Racehorses

Glenn Thompson, who trains racehorses out of the old Whitney barns in Aiken during the winter, has written a book about drugs in racing. The book is called “The Tradition of Cheating in the Sport of Kings,” and it contends that the vast majority of horses racing today are being illegally medicated by their veterinarians on race day. This epidemic of illegal medication, Thompson says, is contributing to the breakdown of racehorses and threatening the future of the sport.

Some of the medications that Thompson discusses are corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. Others are hormones such as ACTH, which is used to help horses relax. Others are vitamins and chemical compounds such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salts) and vitamin B1, which are used in conjunction with Lasix on horses that are bad bleeders.

Some of these substances sound relatively benign (giving vitamin B1 to a racehorse does not sound like such a terrible thing), but what Thompson is coming out against is not so much the compounds themselves, but the way they are being used.

“It is illegal for a vet to give a shot of anything other than Lasix on race day,” he says. “But you see vets going in to give the horse his Lasix, and they have four or five needles in their hands. It happens all the time.”

Another thing that Thompson points out in his book is that the medication rules are different from one state to the next, which can be confusing for trainers and bad for horses.

“In some states you are allowed to give adjunct medications with Lasix, but in other states you aren’t. It would be better if the rules were the same everywhere.”

Glenn’s book, which took him about three weeks to write, was published as an e-book by Smashwords, an electronic book publisher. It is available for download to a computer, iPad or other mobile device for $9.99.

Glenn, who will be back in Aiken to train this winter, says that most of the reaction to the book so far has been positive.

“People have come up to me and shook my hand,” he says. “The only negative reaction that I have gotten was from one of my vets, who quit. He didn’t say anything to me, he just stopped coming to my barn.”

To order a copy of the book, visit

Equine Divine

Equine Divine, one of Aiken’s favorite shops for art and d├ęcor items with an equestrian theme, is under new management this fall. Dini Jones, the new owner, came to Aiken from Ohio and is looking forward to supplying Aiken’s horse lovers with fine art as well as prints, note cards, books and clothing.

New things that are available at the store include a nice selection of Barbour jackets as well as some very stylish warm vests that can be worn to the barn or around town. Dini is also carrying a line of custom-made boots from La Mondial boots, which are made in Ecuador. You can buy polo boots, field boots, or cowboy boots, all made to order, for the low price of $599. For the gentleman who is not a rider, there are custom-made golf shoes for $299.

“I saw them at a trade show and I loved them,” says Dini.

There is also a new selection of items for children and some cool strings of horse, farm animal and cowboy boot lights that you can put on your Christmas tree. You can check these items out at the store on Laurens Street, or do you shopping online:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Semi-Retirement For Cot

This November, Cot Campbell, who is the president of Dogwood Stables, announced that he is going into semi retirement. Cot, who is 84, is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of racehorse partnerships. Dogwood Stable, which has been putting together partnerships for the ownership of racehorses since 1971, currently has 90 partners involved in 43 different partnerships.

Although Cot will not be forming any more racing partnerships after January 1, he will continue to manage the existing partnerships, and there may be other ways that Dogwood will stay in the racing game.

“It may well be that Dogwood—in a newly-structured form—will continue the formation of new racing partnerships, but my only responsibility will be to see to the servicing of the partners and partnerships that are on the books now,” he is quoted at saying in a press release from the company.

“I adore racing horses, and will always keep at it, being involved in a variety of ways. What a wonderful life I have. However, though I am plenty fit and healthy, I am ready to ease off after doing this since 1971. This move will be no great shock, so it follows that we will be talking with several outfits and individuals that could be part of a restructured Dogwood, hopefully including a couple of key people currently with us.

“We have a wonderful client roster. Some partners who have been with us as long as 35 years. Many have become close friends. Since we started we estimate that we have brought into racing around 1200 people, and we have certainly bought that many horses.”

Over its history, Dogwood Stable has campaigned 76 stakes winners and had 15 Grade One winners. The stable has competed in six Kentucky Derbys with seven horses, run in 10 Breeders’ Cup races (winning the Juvenile Fillies with Storm Song in 1996), and collected two Eclipse Awards (for Storm Song and Inlander.) Summer Squall’s 1990 Preakness victory was a high-water mark for the stable.

Dogwood’s current star is Aikenite, a 4-year-old colt by Yes It’s True. Aikenite ran in the $1.5 million Breeder’s Cup Sprint on November 5 at Churchill Downs. Although the colt broke slowly, he came on strong in the homestretch, ultimately finishing fourth and bankrolling $90,000. This brings his career earnings to $866,635.

“I am so proud of Aikenite,” Cot said in a prepared statement. “He ran against the greatest sprinters in the world and was fourth    and we are thrilled with that accomplishment. He always comes running and the sprint was a thrilling race. He gave it his all – and that’s all we could ask of him.”

The Eyes Have It

The eye, it is often said, is the window of the horse’s soul. Horse’s eyes, like people’s eyes, are each unique. No two horses have the same patterns in their irises. Even horses that are clones have different patterns because these patterns are created by an interaction of heredity and the environment.

With that in mind, a company called Global Animal Management, which is a subsidiary of Merck Animal Health, has created a new equine identification system called eyeD. EyeD requires a veterinarian to take infrared pictures of a horse’s eye using a special camera. The vet then attaches the camera to a computer with a USB cord, and sends the information to a central computer. 

“In a nutshell, it’s a new, non invasive way to identify horse,” says Davis Knupp, who is the marketing manager for the product. “What we are doing is taking an eyeprint. We can assign a unique identifier to each eyeprint, and we have a database we can store that information in. We also provide a way for veterinarians to have their own local database.”

This kind of identification system has a wide range of possible applications, from recovering of stolen horses to accurately verifying the identify of racehorses – a racehorse of the future might be identified by an eyeprint rather than by a lip tattoo. The product was launched this fall at the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual meeting and is being made available exclusively to veterinarians.

“None of the breed registries have endorsed it yet,” says David. “But it has all been very positive. We sold over 30 systems at AAEP, so we’re working on implementing it with veterinarians and getting it up and running. We’ll also be launching it internationally in Canada, Germany, France and Italy – there is a lot of international interest.”

The first thing that horse owners might see the eyeD system used for is with their next Coggins test.

“We are integrated with a company called Global Vetlink, which provides electronic vet records and electronic Coggins test records. We’re also integrated into some veterinary practice management software. Using the eyed system with these other systems creates efficiency and accuracy in the veterinary clinic.”

When a horse is first enrolled, the vet takes an eye print of both eyes – this way of something happens to one eye, there will still be another one that can be used to identify the horse.

“It’s more accurate than DNA,” says David. “It’s the most accurate way we have to identify a horse.”

Welcome to the future.

Horse Lover’s Perfume

Women who love horses are not like other women. They would rather get a saddle for Christmas than a diamond necklace. When they get dressed up to go out, they still might have just a little bit of manure on their shoes, even if those shoes are patent leather pumps. They prefer the smell of the barn to Chanel Number 5.

With that in mind, Elliott Levy and Coleen Reed have created a new fragrance especially for horsewomen. The new scent, Eau de Cheval, (literally “water of horse”) is intended to remind horsewomen of their favorite horses and stables.

“It has sweet alfalfa and English leather,” says Elliot. “I wanted them to add a little manure, but they wouldn’t. In place of manure, there is a hint of musk.” This is described, on the website, as “that indescribable dreamy equine essence.”

The fragrance was created by RS Essentials in Aiken, a company that makes exclusive skin care products, soaps and candles using natural ingredients. RS Essentials opened on Richland Avenue last June. Elliott Levy is the executive director of the Aiken County Historical Museum.

Elliott says he is convinced that Eau de Cheval is a product with great marketing potential in the equestrian world – after all, what woman wouldn’t want to smell like the stable? It is also a perfume with a purpose.

“One half of the profits will go to Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable,” says Elliott. This group, spearheaded by Coleen Reed, is working to raise enough money to purchase the historic Gaston Livery Stable on Park Avenue. The stable, which housed a thriving business during the days of the Winter Colony, is one of only five all-brick barns in South Carolina, and the only one that still has an original carriage lift, which was used to hoist carriages into the loft for storage.

Friends of the Gaston Livery Stable has raised almost enough money for the down payment on the property. It will have to raise a lot more to complete the sale and then to set about the process of restoring the stable, which has not been used in decades and has fallen into disrepair. Eau de Cheval might be just the thing.

You can purchase your own two-ounce bottle of Eau de Cheval ($39.95) at RS Essentials or the Aiken County Historical museum. It is also available online through the website While you are visiting that site, be sure to watch the promotional videos, which feature Walker Spruell and Sharer Dale, both of Aiken. There are two separate videos, one for the English and one for the Western riding crowds. They were created by Jamie and Christi Koelker, local filmmakers who also have made documentaries about various historical subjects such as, most recently “Horse Creek Valley, a Tale Worth Telling” which was shown recently on SCETV.

Elliott says that if Eau de Cheval succeeds in raising enough money to save the Gaston Livery stable, it might later be used to raise money for other Aiken nonprofit groups. “You can’t save the world,” he says. “But you can have a positive impact on your corner of it.”