60 Keep­ing It Le­gal

Ev­ery com­peti­tor should be fa­mil­iar with the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram be­fore her horse ever goes down cen­ter­line.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Jen­nifer M. Keeler

Ev­ery com­peti­tor should be fa­mil­iar with the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram be­fore her horse ever goes down cen­ter­line.

Y ou and your horse have just rid­den one of your best tests ever at the spring’s big­gest re­gional show. As you walk out of the arena, prais­ing your mount and shar­ing con­grat­u­la­tions with your trainer, you no­tice a young woman with a back­pack car­ry­ing what looks like a cup on a stick. The tech­ni­cian ap­proaches, in­tro­duces her­self and says, “Your horse has been se­lected for test­ing.” Your stom­ach flut­ters even though you know you haven’t done any­thing wrong.

“There are two main pur­poses of the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram,” said Stephen Schu­macher, DVM, chief ad­min­is­tra­tor of the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram. “First, to pro­tect the wel­fare of the horse and se­condly, to pro­vide bal­anced com­pe­ti­tion and a level play­ing field. We help make sure ev­ery­one is com­pet­ing un­der the same con­di­tions, not just for the other horses in your class, but for those com­pet­ing in your divi­sion at a show three states away.”

While the orig­i­nal pro­gram may have been es­tab­lished to ad­dress con­cerns with un­eth­i­cal train­ers pur­pose­fully abus­ing their horses’ med­i­ca­tion in or­der to gain an ad­van­tage, to­day the face of eques­trian sport has, for the most part, changed for the bet­ter. Ac­cord­ing to Schu­macher, most drug vi­o­la­tions are sim­ply in­ad­ver­tent mis­takes made with­out harm­ful in­tent and could have been avoided by com­peti­tors mak­ing sure they un­der­stood the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Rules. “Most peo­ple have a gen­eral un­der­stand­ing of what’s OK and what’s not,” noted Schu­macher. “But don’t make as­sump­tions, and take the time to ed­u­cate your­self be­fore ever en­ter­ing the arena.”

Keep­ing It Clean

Com­peti­tors should un­der­stand that all sub­stances are bro­ken down into one of three clas­si­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Per­mit­ted, Re­stricted and For­bid­den: Per­mit­ted sub­stances are just-per­mit­ted for use in a horse who is com­pet­ing in USEF shows. Re­stricted sub­stances are also al­lowed,

but they must be within spe­cific lim­its. Non­s­teroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs fall within this cat­e­gory, but there are re­stric­tions as to dosage and how fre­quently they may be ad­min­is­tered. For in­stance, if bute is de­tected in a sam­ple, as long as the plasma con­cen­tra­tion does not ex­ceed the al­lowed amount and the ad­min­is­tra­tion was in ac­cor­dance with pub­lished guide­lines, it is not a vi­o­la­tion. Ex­am­ples of re­stricted sub­stances in­clude dex­am­etha­sone, di­clofenac (Sur­pass ® ), firo­coxib (Equioxx ® ), phenylbu­ta­zone (bute) and flu--

nixin meglamine (Banamine).

• For­bid­den sub­stances should not be found in the horse at all at the time of com­pe­ti­tion. “In these cases, if it’s in the horse, it’s a vi­o­la­tion,” said Schu­macher. “Even if some­one had in­no­cent in­ten­tions, just the fact that it’s present in the horse is not al­lowed and that per­son is held re­spon­si­ble. This is why the vary­ing with­drawal and de­tec­tion times for med­i­ca­tions are so crit­i­cal for ex­hibitors and their vet­eri­nar­i­ans to un­der­stand, so they can make sure the sub­stance is fully clear of the horse’s body be­fore go­ing to a show.” How­ever, there are very spe­cific cir­cum­stances where some for­bid­den med­i­ca­tions can be le­git­i­mately used as part of treat­ment but only for emer­gen­cies (see side­bar on p. 62). Ex­am­ples of for­bid­den sub­stances in­clude ace­pro­mazine, an­ti­his­tamines, at­ropine, laven­der and le­mon balm.

By the Num­bers

Schu­macher re­ported that between 20 to 25 per­cent of USEF-li­censed com­peti- tions are tested an­nu­ally and between 14,000 and 17,000 in­di­vid­ual sam­ples are pro­cessed each year, with less than 1 per­cent re­sult­ing in a pos­i­tive test. “The rea­son we have such a low rate of pos­i­tive find­ings is due to the fact that we have the pro­gram in place—it’s a de­ter­rent to po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tors just by its ex­is­tence. If we weren’t do­ing this, un­for­tu­nately, abuse would prob­a­bly be much more preva­lent,” he noted. Shows are ran­domly se­lected by the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions of­fice based on sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing avail­abil­ity of test­ing vets and tech­ni­cians, level of com­pe­ti­tion and prize money of­fered, lo­ca­tion of the show and fre­quency of test­ing in the past.

Dres­sage rider and trainer Karen Ball, of Coto de Caza, Cal­i­for­nia, whole­heart­edly agreed that the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram is work­ing for ev­ery­one’s best in­ter­est, even if it means an ex­tra fee on the en­try form and a mild in­con­ve­nience when one of her horses is se­lected for test­ing at a show. “Sure, some­times we won­der where all those fees go, so when the testers are at the show it’s nice to see our money go­ing to use,” she said. “I would wel­come more test­ing, even at ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion. It helps as­sure fair­ness for all of us.”

Why Me?

Due to USEF’s wide­spread sam­pling pro­gram, drug testers are fre­quent vis­i­tors to horse shows, and for those ex­hibitors who com­pete on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, it may seem as if they are wear­ing a bull’s-eye on their rid­ing jack­ets. “Some­times we feel like we’re al­ways the ones be­ing tested, but then we look around and re­al­ize that oth­ers are, of course, be­ing tested, too,” noted Ball. “But when you get tested over and over, some­times it does feel like we’re tar­geted, even though we know we’re not.”

Schu­macher is quick to dis­pel any myth that se­lec­tion is based upon any pos­si­ble sus­pi­cion of med­i­ca­tion abuse and that, while the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions of­fice does pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions for how horses are cho­sen at com­pe­ti­tions, it is ul­ti­mately up to the in­di­vid­ual test­ing vet­eri­nar­ian. “How horses are se­lected is de­pen­dent upon the test­ing vet’s dis­cre­tion and varies widely between dif­fer­ent types of com­pe­ti­tion,” said Schu­macher. “Our of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tion is to be as ran­dom as pos­si­ble with a lit­tle more weight on higher-plac­ing horses, so a con­sis­tent win­ner will prob­a­bly have a greater like­li­hood of be­ing tested more of­ten.” How­ever, for dis­ci­plines such as dres­sage, where results aren’t an­nounced un­til long af­ter a horse fin­ishes his test, Schu­macher noted that gen­er­ally horses are cho­sen on a truly ran­dom ba­sis.

In the high-in­ten­sity at­mos­phere of a horse show, hav­ing your horse se­lected for test­ing im­me­di­ately upon ex­it­ing the arena can be dis­tract­ing and, for some, a down­right has­sle. Re­gard­less of senti--

ment, USEF rules re­quire an ex­hibitor’s co­op­er­a­tion with vet­eri­nar­i­ans and com­pli­ance with the test­ing process. Rid­ers and train­ers are strongly urged to ac­com­pany the horse and the tech­ni­cians dur­ing the time that sam­ples are col­lected, la­beled and sealed, and to serve as wit­ness to these pro­ce­dures. “We strongly en­cour­age com­peti­tors to be a part of the process from the very start, ob­serve their horse’s col­lec­tion and ask ques­tions,” Schu­macher con­tin­ued. “We want to have a pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tion with the ex­hibitor, and many peo­ple thank us and ap­pre­ci­ate see­ing their money at work. We re­al­ize that peo­ple are spend­ing a lot of their money and time to com­pete their horses and we don’t want to in­trude on their ex­pe­ri­ence. We just want to make sure all the horses are OK and ev­ery­one is com­pet­ing fairly.”

Stay on the Safe Side

As noted ear­lier, the ma­jor­ity of pos­i­tive tests are from mis­use of med­i­ca­tions and are not nec­es­sar­ily an in­ten­tional at­tempt to do some­thing harm­ful or im­pact­ful on a horse’s per­for­mance. Many of these mis­takes in­volve use of for­bid­den sub­stances in treat­ing a horse’s in­jury or ill­ness and then fail­ing to prop­erly file a USEF Med­i­ca­tion Form. This form, which is com­pleted by the trainer in co­op­er­a­tion with the treat­ing vet­eri­nar­ian and is sub­mit­ted to the show of­fice within one hour of treat­ment (or within one hour of the show of­fice open­ing if treat­ment was af­ter hours), is used to ac­count for how and why a sub­stance was used and ex­plain the spe­cific cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing its ad­min­is­tra­tion. For­bid­den med­i­ca­tions and the re­sult­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion can be uti­lized only in very spe­cific ther­a­peu­tic sit­u­a­tions and, in ad­di­tion, the horse must be with­drawn from the com­pe­ti­tion for a min­i­mum of 24 hours.

“A good ex­am­ple of this would be in the treat­ment of colic. But re­mem­ber, many for­bid­den sub­stances are still not al­lowed un­der any cir­cum­stances. And mane-pulling, shoe­ing, clip­ping and trai­ler­ing are just some of the things that are not con­sid­ered emer­gency pro­ce­dures or le­git­i­mate ther­a­peu­tic pur­poses for use of a seda­tive or any other for­bid­den sub­stance,” con­tin­ued Schu­macher. “So use care and be very spe­cific on the form—we need to know ex­actly why a med­i­ca­tion is given. We look at ev­ery sin­gle med­i­ca­tion form that comes to our of­fice from all the shows and will coun­sel vet­eri­nar­i­ans about proper use of med­i­ca­tions and use of the form. We’re not out to get peo­ple—we take the ap­proach that we try to ed­u­cate peo­ple to avoid fu­ture trou­ble by shar­ing knowl­edge about our pro­gram and how to stay in com­pli­ance.”

They’re Here to Help

Schu­macher em­pha­sized that the USEF Equine Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Rules (Chap­ter 4 of the USEF Rule Book) are a must read for all mem­bers and will help avoid in­ad­ver­tent vi­o­la­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, com­peti­tors should re­view the USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Guide­lines (this pam­phlet is avail­able for free down­load from the USEF web­site) as well as talk with their vet­eri­nar­ian about any and all med­i­ca­tions and sub­stances used for their horse. The USEF Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions of­fice wel­comes ques­tions from ex­hibitors and vet­eri­nar­i­ans, even op­er­at­ing an af­ter-hours phone line in the case of emer­gency. “Call us, we’re here to help,” noted Schu­macher. “Of course, if there’s an emer­gency, first and fore­most al­ways get the best ve­teri­nary care pos­si­ble and what­ever treat­ment is needed for the wel­fare of your horse. While we can’t pro­vide spe­cific ve­teri­nary-care ad­vice, we are here to pro­vide guid­ance as to whether or not the horse can re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion fol­low­ing treat­ment and how to com­ply with drug rules and avoid vi­o­la­tions. Our staff has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in an­swer­ing these ques­tions and are al­ways happy to help.”

For more in­for­ma­tion or ques­tions about the USEF Equine Drugs and Med­i­ca­tions Pro­gram, call 800-633-2472, email med­e­ques­[email protected] or visit usef.org.

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