California Chrome and Equine Nasal Strips

by Matt

If you’ve been anywhere near the horse world this week, you probably know that there’s a new Triple Crown contender on the line.

On Saturday, May 17th, California Chrome became the latest horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, whipping the horse racing world into a frenzy of excitement.

It’s been 32 years since Affirmed became the last Triple Crown winner, ending an exciting string of wins (Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977). The seventies were very good for Triple Crowns – almost as good as the thirties and forties, when three and four Triple Crown championships, respectively, were clinched. But the eighties, nineties, oughts, and now the teens have been filled with near-misses.

And while California Chrome is lauded by many for being the sport’s best chance for a Triple Crown in years, it almost ended before it began, with a short-lived but high-profile controversy over a little strip of adhesive and paper.

Nasal Flair® Strips,,  are meant to help the horse’s airways stay wide open. When horses breathe in, the website explains, the soft tissue around the nasal passages suck in. FLAIR strips help keep the passages wide open. They’re non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical — but they were prohibited by the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

They were before California Chrome, anyway.

California Chrome’s connections had to put in a formal request to use the FLAIR strips, but not before the colt’s trainer, Art Sherman, artfully suggested that the horse’s owners might not want to run him in the Belmont Stakes if the nasal strip wasn’t allowed.

The stewards didn’t take long to flip the rule, announcing nasal strips are now allowed at NYRA tracks.

Do nasal strips work? The FLAIR testimonials would certainly make you think so. Plenty of trainers and horses use them in every sort of equestrian sport, but those with lots of galloping — eventers, endurance horses, and racehorses in particular — really seem to love them. In fact, the horse Paulank Brockagh, winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, ran his cross-country round with a FLAIR strip. Trainers in every discipline report that they’ve had better rounds, better breathing, and better recovery time in their horses.

Would you try a nasal flair strip on your horse? And would you remove your horse from a competition if he wasn’t allowed to wear one?

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