Nasal Strips: They definitely don’t harm

All this talk about California Chrome running in the Belmont on Saturday, June 7, for a chance to be the 12th horse in history and the next since 1978 to win the coveted Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Cup, and Belmont Stakes) has centered on the use of nasal strips. The controversy has been whether or not the use of the nasal strip was performance enhancing.

The equine nasal strip from Flair.

Do the strips give horses a competitive edge? Experts say no, and thus the State of New York Racing Commission cleared the use of the strip for the Belmont Stakes. However upon further investigation, research results are conflicting.

In a 2001 study, conducted on nasal strips, it was shown that they had no effect on gas exchange, exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or lactate build-up due to anaerobic metabolism. But a more recent study conducted in 2004 suggests that horses wearing nasal strips had a reduction in bleeding in the lungs.

The disposable 3-inch strip laid across the dorsum of the horse’s nose is said to expand the diameter of the nasal passages to allow more airflow with less restriction. Since horses are obligate nasal breathers (meaning that they can only breathe through their nose and not through their mouth like us humans) an open nasal passage is extremely important. Sold under the brand name Flair, the equine nasal strip was invented by two veterinarians in the early 2000s.

For the $10 that it costs for a nasal strip, if they can help your horse to breathe easier and more freely – why not try them? Even if they help the smallest amount, every little bit helps, especially in cases of speed.

Bottom Line: They won’t harm your horse if you choose to be adventurous and give them a try. Whether you feel they truly make a difference for your horse is something we’d like to hear about.