I’ve been reading accounts of the active riders meetings at the U.S. Eventing Association’s convention two weeks ago, and I find disturbing and annoying what coach David O’Connor and other USEF officials told the riders about the Federation Equestre Internationale’s latest drug rules.
The FEI has announced that they will now hold horses’ blood and urine samples for eight years after a competition, so that they could run future tests on them, tests that may have been developed for banned or prohibited substances since the competition.
Eight years!? Does that mean that if in 2018 they add a substance to the banned list, something that wasn’t on the list in 2014, that they can re-test our horse’s sample to try and find it? And then you could be disqualified and suspended? I don’t see how that could stand up in court—how can you be penalized for doing something that wasn’t illegal at the time of a competition? But it sure strikes fear into your heart, which is probably what they want.
I see this as FEI leaders’ latest effort to prevent us from treating our horses as athletes, a policy they’ve pursued for years. They seem intent on politically pretending that all of our international sports aren’t extremely demanding on our horses and that hay, oats and water is all horses need to do them. Can they really be serious?
While I will agree that some people in some discipline cultures rely too much on “better living through chemistry,” the FEI’s head-in-the-sand policy suggests that our horses should never need or receive any type of anti-inflammatory medication, of any kind, ever. Next they’ll want to ban Adequan and Legend. It’s all ridiculous. It’s not living in the real world. In fact, I’d call it reverse inhumane.
The FEI’s drug policy already made you think twice about giving a normal therapeutic dose of Bute or Banamine for a small wound or a slight bruise or muscle soreness on the Monday before a competition that starts on Friday. And that’s ridiculous, because by Wednesday there is no longer a therapeutic effect. But the FEI’s drug rule says there can be no residue—at all.
I think that the big thing the FEI’s ridiculous drug rules do is to discourage you from letting your competition horses live like horses. They discourage you from turning them out, for fear of getting a wound, pulling a shoe and getting a bit footsore, or one of the dozens of other things horses can do to themselves.
So, let me get this straight, FEI: You’d rather our horses develop colic or ulcers from living in stalls all day than give them a dose of an anti-inflammatory because they get sore from the work they do to get ready for your competitions? Sure, that makes a lot of sense.
The FEI’s drug rule also suggests that my two horses who are currently competing in FEI events should have absolutely separate feed tubs and buckets, that their feeding system should be totally separated from that of the other 20-plus horses on our farm. What if on Tuesday their grain was poured into the bin in their stalls from a bucket used to feed another horse Bute or perhaps even a supplement with something on the prohibited list in it? The answer is that I could be in trouble if they get tested. What a pain in the horse’s butt.
The other new requirement is that now FEI officials want all riders competing in FEI competitions to keep a logbook for each horse, in which you record all injuries and all medical care. They say that this will be consulted if they find something they don’t like in your horse’s sample, but I’m dubious. If my horse’s sample finds a trace of Bute or Banamine, but my logbook says he hasn’t had that for 45 days, would I be cleared? I doubt it.
This eight-year testing, FEI admits, is likely limited to championships, due to financial and human limitations. As I have no aspirations or chance for any teams, I may not have to worry about this continuing stupidity. But what if in two years, they announce that some Saudi sheik has given them millions of dollars to test and retest horses from every FEI competition? Makes you wonder if FEI competitions are worth all the trouble, doesn’t it?