NSAIDs Congress Exposes Benefits and Risks, Focuses on Horse Welfare

Scientific, legal, and ethical points of view on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use in competition horses continued to stream Switzerland's air even at the close of the two-day NSAIDs congress, hosted by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) in Lausanne. Although no consensus was reached, the event concluded among much praise from its 200 international participants.

"It was a terrific platform with a very unique approach that made the debate really accessible to everyone," said FEI general counsel Lisa Lazarus, JD. "The question-and-answer session at the end of the presentations was never a quiet moment; people really felt the opportunity to get involved in this very active and lively debate."

The final vote on whether NSAIDs may be permitted at certain therapeutic levels at FEI competitions will be made by the national federations at the FEI General Assembly in Taiwan this November. Until then the issue must be kept vibrant with ongoing debates in order to ensure that the voters make the most informed decision possible, FEI First Vice President and Debate Chairman Sven Holmberg said in his closing remarks.

Mike Gallagher, president of the Canadian Equestrian Federation, co-led the pro-NSAIDs side of the organized debate held Tuesday afternoon along with Tim Ober, DVM, U.S. Equestrian Federation team veterinarian. Gallagher said he felt a distinct difference of opinion between North American and European participants, the latter making up the vast majority of the congress. "We certainly did not convince the congress that the NSAID policy should be passed, but we did manage to dispel many myths and explain the North American system to them," he said. "We do not want to mask injury; we want to treat inflammation caused from a day of hard showing, to prevent longer-term injuries which can occur if the inflammation is not treated."

Protecting the horse was visibly the primary concern from all sides of the debate, according to Holmberg. "There is no doubt that both sides of the Atlantic and the rest of the world have the same clear goal in mind: that the welfare of the horse is really paramount to whatever we do," he said.

Full coverage of the congress, including transcripts and videos, will soon be available at the FEI website in an effort to diffuse the information from the congress to as many interested parties as possible, Lazarus said.

"There is clearly a lot more work to do before this proposal can be applicable, and, therefore, acceptable, across all FEI disciplines," said British rider and FEI dressage task force member Richard Davison. "But credit must go to the U.S. national federation, and in particular Tim Ober, for raising the discussion which may have important spinoffs. Huge congratulations must also go to the FEI congress committee and staff for turning this communication and consultation process around."

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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