Sport Horse Medication Rules Decoded

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) constantly work to protect the welfare of equine athletes and ensure a level playing field for competition. In the wake of several high-profile doping cases--including those from the 2008 Olympic Games—these two governing bodies have been trying to clarify equine medication rules for competitors, explained A. Kent Allen, DVM, of Virginia Equine Imaging in Middleburg, Va., during his talk, "Drug Testing for the Equine Athlete," at the 2010 Kentucky Equine Research Nutrition Conference April 26-27 in Lexington.

In November 2009, the FEI developed a prohibited substances list to better differentiate between doping substances and commonly used medications. It also established a list of drug detection times--the approximate period of time that a drug remains detectable, by laboratory tests of blood or urine, in a horse's system.

Confusion about medication rules still exist however, because the FEI and USEF differ in their selection and testing of horses, in who is held responsible for drug violations, and in their lists of permitted substances. Therefore, said Allen, it is very important for owners, trainers, and veterinarians to understand not only what is prohibited, but also what might potentially cause an inadvertent violation.

FEI lists and rules can be found at and USEF rules online.

According to Allen, an owner, trainer, or farm manager can take the following steps to help prevent inadvertent violations:

  • Use clean bedding that has not been contaminated by another horse;
  • Ensure that medicines administered cannot spread to horses in adjacent stalls;
  • Don't stable a competition horse in the same stall as a horse treated with a prohibited substance without thoroughly cleaning the stall;
  • Don't permit treated horses to share feed buckets;
  • Keep detailed medical records for all horses.

More information on the conference and the presentations is available from KER.

About the Author

Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Alexandra Beckstett, Managing Editor of The Horse and a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as Assistant Editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse.

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