Equine Progressive

now we're getting somewhere

The Tack Room Medicine Cabinet

with 7 comments

Canada recently released new safety standards for the meat of horses slaughtered for human consumption. Each horse will have to be accompanied by identification and six months’ worth of health records. 

The identification form, chillingly, has room for the horse’s name. Really? Talk about your food having a face. This seems different to me from naming your 4-H pig “Pork Chop,” but perhaps I’m just indulging in a rare fit of sentimentality. 

As Alex Brown continues his study on the reported percentage of racehorses receiving bute on race day (it stands somewhere between 90 and 100%), his essay published at Paulick Report points out what should be obvious to everyone who has ever walked into a tack room: horses are not intended for human consumption. Oh it happens – but not on purpose! 

At least, not in the United States. 

This isn’t an argument about the cruelty of slaughter, or civilization’s debt to the horse, or the question of unwanted horses. I’m not going to get into ethics. I’m interested in food safety. 

Now, I’m not a scientist, and my knowledge of toxicities is limited to Google searches. But I do have a tack box of horse meds, and while I’ve gone pretty natural and it’s not as colorful or interesting as some I have had in the past, some of them make the banned list. 

So, here is what I could find in my little tack room which contains some version of the old stand-by “Not for Horses Intended for Slaughter.” As if any horse ever bred was ever intended for slaughter. 

The first two items are on the banned or six-month list: 

    A banned substance in every tack room.
  • Phenylbutazone. Banned. Everyone gets bute at some point. Oh, you have a swollen eyelid, must have a bee-sting. Have

    some bute. Oh, you’ve got a big bang on your leg. Have some bute. It’s like giving children chewable aspirin. It’s even fruit-flavored most of the time.



  • Nitrofurazone. Banned. Including the very brand that I have, Furall aerosol spray.     

  •  Acepromazine. Six-month withdrawal period. Useful around here for: loading onto trailers, veterinary work in uncomfortable places (like, say, the inside of a yearling’s stifle.) My vet also uses something more hard-core for breeding work. And one of my broodmares, Ontherightwicket, had surgery and was absolutely pumped full of tranq and meds for months. While pregnant. She is officially inedible. And, I wonder, does that make the filly inedible also?

The list of other items that will be permitted, including feed additives, after a certain manufacturer-stated withdrawal period, will be released in April. All these items, which are in my grooming box, have warning labels but aren’t yet listed on the Food Inspection regulations. 

  • Betadine
  • Banixx – An antifungal/antibacterial spray
  • Swat – the insecticide ointment
  • Ivermectin
  • Regu-Mate
  • Smart Tendon – a joint and tendon supplement. It contains MSM – could that be the withdrawal substance?

And what of the off-label items? We all do it. I have DMSO, Lysol, and bleach in my tack room. Are these fit for use on horses intended for human consumption? And if not, who would ever know? They’re not drugs, so they’ll won’t show up on a list of restricted substances. 

How can you regulate an industry that pulls its product almost entirely from people’s backyards? My argument for years stands yet: There are no horses intended for consumption. There are show horses, race horses, pleasure horses, pasture horses, even Premarin horses, who are pushed into slaughter because they fell through the cracks, or no other options presented themselves in a timely manner. Six months off of the withdrawal-limited drugs will never make up for the fact that most horses have had bute, furazone, ace, or a host of other banned substances in their systems at some point. 

It will be interesting to see how Canada deals with these facts of the slaughter industry. Yay or nay on slaughter, you have to admit, keeping the food chain clean and safe seems impossible. And it sure makes you want to grow your own veggies and avoid meat, just thinking about it…

What’s in your horse’s medicine cabinet? Go on, I bet there’s some interesting stuff in there… spill it, we want to know!


Written by Natalie Keller Reinert

March 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Yup, I’ve got Bute, Ace and Furazone in my tack trunk. All three have been used in the past six months. Guess nobody will be eating my horses anytime soon 🙂

    I am concerned that if those aren’t safe for human consumption they really shouldn’t be safe for horse consumption either.

    Oh, and the Bute I’ve got smells like candy. That’s a little disturbing.


    March 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

    • My bute smells like orange kool-aid mix. And not for nothing, but I always mix it in grain with my hands, and I just read last night that phenylbutazone interferes with birth control pills. Maybe that should be more common knowledge? I have known plenty of people that have taken bute for their own pains as well – not advisable!!

      Natalie Keller Reinert

      March 4, 2010 at 11:39 am

      • I used to take Bute from time to time after a rough day at the barn.

        Then I learned it could kill you. I stopped.


        March 4, 2010 at 11:43 am

  2. I’ve often thought about exactly this. How safe is that meat for human consumption, especially from those horses who walk off a meat man’s truck? They have no idea what has been administered to those horses before they hit the auction floor. Zoos won’t even take dead horses (to feed the carnivores) if they’ve been put to sleep with the pink stuff or had any kind of antibiotic or other drug for at least six weeks prior to death.

    I know how much stuff MY horses get (wormer, bute, supplements, joint supps, banamine, antibiotics etc. etc. etc.) and if I was ever inclined to eat horse meat (which I’m NOT!) I would never ever eat someone’s former riding horse (or broodmare or pet). I know what we put into them.

    When my goats were sick a couple of years ago the vet was very, very clear about where we should inject the antibiotics because wherever that injection went, the meat would forever be unfit for human consumption.


    March 4, 2010 at 11:42 am

    • Okay, but what if someone buys the goat? How do you let them know, hey, don’t eat anything from that particular spot? Was this addressed by the vet? Because that is the crux of the equine problem.

      Natalie Keller Reinert

      March 5, 2010 at 1:17 am

  3. I really wonder about the statement, “Horses are not BreD for meat”. I mean, I agree with you, but it really makes me wonder, the very impressive diaper-butted, double-muscled QH lines…
    Low head-sets would be beneficial. Uber-quiet temperament. I’m just saying. I have wondered.

    Great post, of course.
    Bute will destroy your liver, NEVER take it!

    Animals go through a “de-tox” before the kill. It’s called a feed-lot.
    What goes into them is showing up in us. Why on earth wouldn’t it?

    The meat guy slices out t’bad, and the surrounding tissue. I’m sorry if I’m being gross.
    Most of the stuff listed here would be in a dairy or a cattle or a goat or whatever barn, too.
    But hopefully not used with the same reckless abandon:)
    Horrible Canadian Out.


    March 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    • Horrible Canadian, that is a horrible thought. But.. alarmingly possible.

      So Halter-bred Quarter Horses might be part of a Vast Meat Market Conspiracy? (Totally Right Wing, that goes without saying.)

      Food or face, food or poison, food or pasture pet, food or friend looking at you over the stall door, it’s getting to be a slippery slope.

      Natalie Keller Reinert

      March 9, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: