"Today, Tennessee Walking Horses are known throughout the industry
as the breed that shows abused and tortured horses."

~ Jim Heird, Ph.D., Do Right By The Horse, February 2010

"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 25, 2008

RESEARCH - Chemicals found in the USDA sniffer tests

After reading the sniffer tests results, I realized that quite frankly, I have no idea what the chemicals are that they found. So I thought it would be a really good idea to do some research and learn what makes these chemicals the choice for putting them on the horse's pasterns. We know that chemicals are used to cause pain, so how do these do it? What possible products are being used? This is what I've found out. I linked the chemical name to the information I found on Wikipedia about it.

It is important to make a quick note that no chemicals are allowed to be used on the show grounds at any time. There are only three substances allowed to be used on the horse's legs per the HPA: mineral oil, glycerine and petrolatum (similar to Vaseline). The are to be used as lubricants for the chains worn around the horses' pasterns. They also must be provided by the show venue and not brought onto the grounds.

Overall, please note that this is speculation only. These are just the facts on what these chemicals are paired with potential reasons why they are used.

Oxybenzone - A derivative of benzophenone, it is used in sunscreen and other cosmetics because it absorbs UV-A ultraviolet rays. It's use in sunscreens is criticized because it can attack DNA when illuminated and break the genetic strands. It's possible that it's used for soring because sunscreen can sting when put on raw spots on the skin.

Camphor - A naturally-occuring solid from the camphor laurel, a large evergreen tree in Asia. It's used in medicines such as Vicks VapoRub and is an effective cough suppressive. It's also used as a local anesthetic. Sore horse "trainers" are known to use anesthetics to numb the horse's legs during inspection. When timed correctly, it will wear off by the time the horse goes in the show ring so he will be sore for his performance.

Benzocaine - A local anesthetic used as a topical pain reliever. See the explanation of camphor for the reason why sore horse "trainers" will use it.

Oxtyl methoxycinnamate - An organic compound that is used in some sunscreens and lip balm to absorb UV-B rays from the sun to protect the skin. It is also used to reduce the appearance of scars. Scars on a horse's pasterns can be indicative to the horse having been sored. The DQPs are trained to recognize scars that are caused by soring. So, reducing the appearance of scars will help the horse pass inspection even though it's been sored.

Isopropyl myristate - Used in cosmetics and topical medicinal preparations when good absorbtion into the skin is required. It can be used by sore horse "trainers" to help other agents into the skin quickly so as not to be detected during inspection.

Methyl salicylate - An organic combination of an organic acid and alcohol produced by plants as a deterrent against plant eaters. In very, very small doses, it can provide flavoring to various products, such as chewing gum, and as an odor-masking agent. It is commonly used in deep heating liniments such as BenGay. However, it is highly toxic in large doses, and if used in excess can cause burning and irritation to the skin. An interesting note from Wikipedia: "A 17 year-old cross-country runner at Notre Dame Academy died April 3, 2007, after her body absorbed high levels of methyl salicylate through excessive use of topical muscle-pain relief products."

o-aminoazotoluene - This is an organic compound known as an azo compound Azo compounds can be very rich in colors such as orange, red and pink and are usually used as dyes. This azo compound has high carcinogenic properties. It can cause extreme irritation of the skin and is highly flammable.

Isopropyl palmitate - An emulsifier and texturizer derived from palm oil that is used to moisturize skin and hair. It is described as giving a "silky appearance." This may be used to hide dry skin, scars, broken hairs, and any other skin or hair conditions that could indicate soring.

menthol - An organic compound made synthetically or obtained from peppermint or other mint oils. Menthol can be used as a local anesthetic and counterirritant. This would have the same affect as camphor--see above.

elemental sulfur - Sulfur can be found on the Periodic Table of Elements and is essential to natural life. It's bright yellow in color in its pure form. It's used in fertilizer, gunpowder, matches, insecticides and fungicides. Elemental sulfur is used as a precursor to making other substances, such as sulfuric acid. There could be a variety of reasons why elemental sulfur is being used. It could be used to "thwart" the sniffer from sensing other chemicals. Sulfur is also used in dyestuffs and detergents, so there could be something the sore horse "trainers" are using to sore the horses that has elemental sulfur in it.

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