Governing Equine Competition

As the National Governing Body for equestrian sport, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF, formerly U.S.A. Equestrian) takes seriously the importance of providing a fair and level playing field for all competitors. This mission is a large and important one. Administering the rules and regulations requires not only the work of the Federation's employees, but it also requires assistance from licensed officials, members, and competition organizers. Violations and penalties are never a good thing, especially considering that "sportsmanship" and "playing by the rules" should be at the heart of any sport. Some administrative bodies tend to be invisible, but the Federation wants to be visible in making sure the rules and processes for their enforcement are accessible to all who may be impacted by them.

Important to remember is the USEF has special responsibilities and must meet a long list of stringent requirements in enforcing rules and ensuring discipline, as it is governed by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. Fairness in ensuring this list of criteria is paramount.

Protests or charges can be brought against anyone who allegedly breaks "the equestrian law." And recognized competitions are expected to enforce the wide array of rules, regulations, and restrictions that make up that ideal level playing field. Dedicated to ensure this, one way that USEF issues sanctions is after hearings are conducted by the Federation's Hearing Committee.

Responding to the charges of a violation, and any possible penalty or fine, is something that every member of USEF needs to understand. And while no one enjoys the process, it is critical to respond promptly and educate yourself about the process. The Federation's Rules Compliance Department can be contacted to answer questions about the process and any timelines for response.

Knowing the rules of whatever equestrian sport you participate in--whether as an athlete, owner, trainer, or show management--can only serve to assist in preventing bad news from coming your way. Although USEF employees cannot give advice or interpretations of the rules, the specialized departments can direct individuals where to go to find the rules within their area of expertise, and there are plenty of other avenues for gaining knowledge about the rules. Knowledge is power. And should you receive notice of a violation, you will be better able to maneuver the process.

In an upcoming issue of EQUESTRIAN magazine, an in-depth look at the Hearing Process will be featured to assist in educating the Federation's membership on the topic.

When the laboratory detects a forbidden substance in a sample, members can feel confident in the science and process by which the results are found in the Federation's state-of-the-art facility, which has been in operation since 1995. The laboratory, located near Ithaca, N.Y., has been hailed as a leader across the board in its procedures and scope of testing. In 2003, the facility was expanded to serve the needs of the membership even more efficiently. The 5,000-square-foot lab tests 11,000 blood and urine samples annually, each of them including screens for steroids, corticosteroids, over 90 individual enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests, as well as quantifying six non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug levels per sample. The USEF lab performs far more testing on each sample than any other equine drug testing laboratory known to exist, and could detect in excess of 500 different drugs.

The USEF Drugs and Medications Program provides split samples and allows second testing. With the general membership's increased number of requests to administrators for continued and enhanced programs, USEF is committed to provide it. And the membership is benefiting from their dollars earmarked for medication fees.

Should any member have questions regarding the program or any of the related rules or regulations, they are invited to contact the office at 800/633-2472 or via e-mail at

In response to the specific claim that the old adage, "innocent until proven guilty," is turned on its head by the absolute insurer laws, the general idea is correct ("Breaking the Rules" on page 129). The trainer responsibility rules do shift the burden of proof, in that the trainer, as the person with care, custody, and control of the horse, is presumed responsible for what is found in the horse's body. Their signature on the entry blank is acknowledgment of that very fact.

Of course, drug and/or medication allegations aren't the only areas in which charges can be issued. The Federation's Hearing Committee hears a myriad of other allegations involving such issues as abuse, unsportsmanlike conduct, and falsification of documents, to name a few. Should any member have any questions regarding the Rule Book or the hearing process, they are encouraged to contact the Federation to get the answers to their questions.

Visit our web site at to learn more about rules and regulations of the Federation.

About the Author

Brian Sosby

Brian Sosby is the Editor of the United States Equestrian Federation's EQUESTRIAN magazine based in Lexington, KY. He joined the former AHSA's Sports Operations department in 1999, and moved into Marketing and Communications in 2000, serving as both Business Editor and Assistant Editor before taking on the Editor title. He can be reached at (a href=mailto:Brian Sosby is the Managing Editor of the United States Equestrian Federation's EQUESTRIAN magazine based in Lexington, KY. He joined the former AHSA's Sports Operations department in 1999, and moved into Marketing and Communications in 2000, serving as both Business Editor and Assistant Editor. He can be reached at

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