Stop Drugging Horses at Competitions

Target: United States Equestrian Federation

Goal: Stop the use of dangerous drugs used to calm horses’ nerves at competitions.

Drugging to calm horses is becoming more and more common at United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) sanctioned shows. Drugs that are not on the banned substance list, but are intended to be used for the same purposes of those on the list are prevalent and dangerous to horses’ welfare. After several deaths and collapses at USEF sanctioned shows, USEF still has not banned or suspended anyone, or even given an in-depth investigation in some cases. The death of the pony Humble and the collapse of the horse Parkland are notable examples. Horses in the Hunter/Jumper sections of USEF are the worst off, where calm, quiet horses are desirable. Current rules are not comprehensive enough to crack down on those who cheat and endanger the horse.

Previous drug rule infractions have not had a long enough sentence to deter trainers from drugging. A loophole of having someone else, such as a groom or an assistant, sign as trainer on the horse’s entry blank is also keeping trainers who drug and endanger the horse in business and showing. They do not suffer the consequences of a suspension, because whoever signed as trainer is responsible in the eyes of USEF. The abuse of legal drugs, like Dexamethasone, is also a big problem. Off label use is incredibly common and not policed as it should be.

The big name trainers who support USEF shows weekly are often too high profile for USEF to want to ban or suspend from competition. They support the shows with many horses and clients and bring much money to USEF. Whereas the rules state that any substance given with the intent to alter performance is against the rules, USEF does not do a good job of enforcing it, especially in their big ticket clients.

In order for the horse to once again be the focus, USEF needs to crack down on drugging and enforce the rules, as well as keep abreast of the new medications being used to get around the banned substances list. The horse is suffering because of the lack of attention USEF is showing to the problem of drugging.

Tell USEF to take a harder stance against rule breakers who drug and endanger the horse and close loopholes that allow trainers to continue going to shows after their barn has an infraction.


Dear United States Equestrian Federation,

Drugging is becoming more and more common at horse shows, especially in Hunters/Jumpers. Current drug rules are clearly not doing their job, or USEF is not enforcing them well. There have been several deaths and collapses at horse shows, none of which have resulted in a long term ban or suspension. Humble’s death at Devon shone a spotlight on the problem of drugging, as well as how badly USEF is handling the problem.

People other than the trainer signing as trainer on entry blanks is another issue that allows people to get around being suspended or banned while still drugging. This is common, but less common than the abuse of legal drugs like Dex. USEF needs to police drugs like Dex to make sure people are not using it in an illegal way, against the spirit of the rules. USEF needs to make an example out of those who are found to be doing something illegal and crack down on all exhibitors and trainers who “drug to win,” instead of allowing loopholes for people to cheat through.

I urge you to think of the horse’s welfare instead of the trainers’ and exhibitors’ who abuse the horse in this way. Enforcing and improving drug rules can only improve the sport, and I urge you to take a good look at the mess that drugs have created in the horse world and crack down.


[Your Name Here]


Photo credit: carterse via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Surely if they want placid horses they should choose horses that are placid by nature? People concerned with horses should know what they are like and choose them according to temperament, not try and change them by drugs.

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