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They Shoot Horses Full of Drugs, Don’t They?

Here are the ways to get a horse more juiced up than the starting lineup of the 1970s Oakland Raiders.
Κείμενο Barry Collins

People have been pumping horses full of substances to get them to run faster as long as they’ve been sitting on top of horses and racing them against other horses for money. The difference between a win and a place can be literally a nose, so it makes sense that trainers would use everything at their disposal to give their horses an edge. Many—including myself—would argue that these enhancements, along with shitty breeding, have been the largest contributor to the decline of the thoroughbred horse and the 34-year Triple Crown drought. Just like “Mean people make little mean people,” as the saying goes, “Unsound horses breed little unsound horses.” Covering up lameness issues with drugs only contributes to that factor—but that’s not stopping anyone from juicing up horses like they’re the 1970s Oakland Raiders. Here are a few of the more common methods for enhancing horse performance.


Frog Juice
The New York Times just reported that upwards of 30 racehorses were found to be dosed with dermorphin, which is an ultra-powerful painkiller found in the skin secretions of South America’s waxy monkey tree frog. Frog juice also induces feelings of excitement and euphoria, which—actually, shit, that sounds like a ton of fun, but it’s bad news for horses who don’t get to choose to do it. This type of drugging is so new to the sport, most tracks do not have the capability to test for it, leaving one to assume that those 30 horses on “Kermit”—that’s the slang for it I just made up—are just the tip of the iceberg. (If you like to visualize your metaphors, imagining an iceberg made of horses is pretty fun.)

Cobra Venom
In 2007, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority suspended trainer Patrick Biancone for one year when a raid of his barn turned up several vials of crystalized cobra venom. While this might sound like some badass Indiana Jones type shit, cobra venom is extremely dangerous to horses—like Kermit, cobra venom is way, way stronger than morphine. Trainers inject the venom in very small doses under the skin when a horse is in pain, and the horse can then literally run till his leg falls apart. Because this drug rarely leaves a trace in urine and blood tests, a trainer pretty much needs to be caught red-handed, a la Biancone, to be found out.

While blow is not nearly as commonly used by horses as it is by their jockey counterparts due to routine testing, I would be remiss in excluding booger sugar from this list. The effect on horses is exactly the same as it is on yourself, except horses won’t close-talk you about how “groundbreaking” Mission of Burma was for three hours.


Everyone loves milkshakes, especially my fat ass, but the equine version is not the kind you get at Steak and Shake at 3 AM. The type of milkshake I’m talking about consists of baking soda, sugar, and electrolytes, and it gets delivered though a tube shoved up the horse’s nose. (People don’t do this for fun—this fights fatigue caused by racing.) This is pretty common—just last month, trainer Doug O’Neill, who recently made headlines with his Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning horse I’ll Have Another was handed a 45-day suspension in California when one of his horses tested positive for elevated levels of CO2, a common side effect of milkshaking.

Turns out this little blue pill does more than give your dad the boner he needs to satisfy your mom. Sildenafil (the science-y name for Viagra) improves the cardiovascular, nervous, and reproductive systems in horses, and there’s been research indicating that Viagra can be an effective therapy for Laminitis, a lethal foot condition in horses, by improving blood flow to the feet. (Viagra improves blood flow in humans, too—except it’s the blood flowing to your dad’s dick moments before he bangs your mom.) While Sildenafil does seem to have some medicinal qualities and is allowed as a treatment for certain ailments in horses, it’s banned on race days because it enhances horses’ performance—again, just like it enhances the performance of your dad’s wiener as he pumps it in and out of your momma.


Anabolic Steroids
Horse trainers have been juicing their horses for ages, and anabolic steroids weren’t banned in Kentucky, California, or New York until a few years ago. These are the exact same kind of ‘roids that athletes have been using to smash homeruns and win the Tour de France. How prevalent are ‘roids? Rick Dutrow Jr., a trainer who is currently appealing a ten-year suspension in New York and has been fined or suspended more than 72 times for medication violations, has openly admitted that he administered steroids to many of his horses including 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. Good luck with that appeal Ricky!

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