Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Equine Hospital Is State of the Art; but at What Cost?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Equine Hospital Is State of the Art; but at What Cost?

Article excerpt

For some Florida racehorse owners, the biggest bet placed may not be at the track but at the University of Florida's equine hospital.

The hospital, ready to unveil $1.4 million in medical advances and facilities by early 1994, offers the newest - and sometimes costliest - procedures to save horses.

The growing dilemma for owners is whether the horse is worth the price of the sophisticated medical care.

"My only fear is that technology will surpass the value of a horse," said Jay Sears, executive director of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, based at Pompano Harness Track. "It's a tough call for owners and trainers as to where to draw the line."

The stakes are big. Some horses carry multimillion-dollar price tags. Others have a more sentimental value.

The thoroughbred and harness tracks generated more than $15.5 million in state revenues last year, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations.

In some cases, the gamble paid off. Strike the Gold started his life in Florida's foal intensive-care unit and went on to win the 1991 Kentucky Derby.

But it is too early to tell for Suzanne Maxwell, owner of Pyrite Farm in Lowell, near Ocala. A thoroughbred mare recently fell onto broken fence boards on the 75-acre farm.

"It was rainy and muddy and she must have slipped," Maxwell said. "Boards broke and impaled her. The wound was so deep that you could see her intestines bulging."

The mare also was carrying a foal, expected in January. Surgery was successful and an ultrasound indicated no damage to the foal, Maxwell said. She declined to identify the horse or disclose the medical bills' amount.

"This mare has already proved herself, and if her baby wins $1 million, then it was worth it to save the mare," Maxwell said. "All of us in the horse industry know we're in the wish business."

That is why Maxwell chose the name pyrite - "fool's gold" - for her farm, established 10 years ago. "A sense of humor is important in this business," she said.

A major mission of the university's horse hospital is to work with local veterinarians.

"They work very well with us by keeping us abreast of developing diagnoses," said Jerry Rudnick, a veterinarian at Millpond Equine Clinic in Coconut Creek near Fort Lauderdale. …

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