HOW ABOUT A BUTE?
After hitting the gym hard, you may reach for an ibuprofen to combat the soreness you know you’ll feel the next day. Does it make sense, then, to give a hardworking horse a dose of phenylbutazone in the same “just in case” spirit? My answer to this is usually “no.” Phenylbutazone (“bute”) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Other drugs in this category include Banamine and Equioxx.
Phenylbutazone is so effective at decreasing inflammation that it can mask signs of an injury. Let’s say, for example, your horse stumbled on a ride and sustained a strain. If you give him a bute, it might impede your veterinarian’s ability to evaluate the injury. Is he just a little lame? Or is he really lame and the bute is covering it up? That can be hard to tell when a horse is already medicated.
Even if he isn’t injured, “preventive” bute can make it difficult to manage an athletic horse. Our horses can’t tell us when they’ve overdone something and should take it easy the next day. The only way we can determine this is to look for stiffness in how he moves, and bute can make that challenging. The effects of bute last between 12 and 24 hours, so you won’t get a clear picture of how a horse is faring after a hard workout for that long.
Of course, bute can be very helpful in managing specific injuries and predictable and chronic conditions. There here are many horses—particularly orses—particularly older der athletes—who are re kept “in the game” ame” with regular, low w doses of bute to help elp manage early arthritis. rthritis. But beyond those hose types of uses, a preventive bute after fter a hard workout isn’t n’t a good idea.