22 Apr 2009

Drugs, toxins probed in Venezuelan polo horse deaths

9:08 am on 22 April 2009

Florida investigators say they suspect an adverse reaction to drugs or toxins as the cause of the sudden deaths of 21 polo horses from Venezuela, amid growing calls for routine drug testing in the equine sport.

The Florida Department of Agriculture, which is leading the investigation, says there's no evidence that the horses were affected with an infectious or contagious disease as no other horses were affected.

The Lechuza polo team from Caracas was to have competed at the Palm Beach Polo Club in Florida when its horses began to have difficulty breathing about 45 minutes before game time.

The animals collapsed and died one by one throughout the afternoon and overnight Sunday into Monday, despite furious efforts to save them by veterinarians at local equine clinics which they had been relocated to.