Medication Rules Revised

The USA Equestrian (USAE) Board of Directors approved a rule change on Jan. 19 that should reduce the incidence of corticosteroid abuse in equine athletes. The USAE sets rules for 27 breeds and disciplines competing in the United States, and is the U.S. equestrian national governing body. The corticosteroid rule will go into effect Dec. 1, 2003.

The USAE's Veterinary and Equine Drugs and Medications (D&M) committees met in January at the 2003 USAE Convention in Lexington, Ky.

The centerpiece of the rule change established a quantitative limit in a horse's plasma for the amount of the corticosteroid dexamethasone to try and prevent overuse of the medication. Additionally, the rule classifies other corticosteroids as forbidden in order to prevent their non-therapeutic use. These forbidden corticosteroids could be administered only for therapeutic purposes, not closer than 24 hours before competing, and only with submission of a medication report. (Read more on the specifics in article #4080 at

Catherine W. Kohn, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, professor in veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University, and colleagues have a study in progress examining USAE medication report forms to survey use of dexamethasone. Preliminary results covering 947 horses which competed in USAE-sanctioned events from May-Sept. 2002 showed that 33% of the horses received three or more doses of corticosteroids during an event. Up to 10 doses during an event were given in some instances. Veterinary and D&M Committee members said this represented abnormal patterns of use that could potentially harm horses. Overuse of dexamethasone and other corticosteroids can promote immunosuppression (reducing disease-fighting ability) and can cause laminitis.

Among other topics discussed were extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) and its temporary analgesic (pain-killing) properties. Kent Allen, DVM, Chairman of the USAE Veterinary and D&M Committees, explained that Scott McClure, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, assistant professor of equine surgery at Iowa State University, recently tried to test the analgesic properties of ESWT. "He could not find (the analgesic effect) lasting more than two to four days. Perhaps we should follow FEI's lead (limiting ESWT to five days prior to competition)," Allen said.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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