Tag Archives: bute
The New USEF Drug Rule Goes into Effect April 1

The New USEF Drug Rule Goes into Effect April 1

The new USEF drug rule affecting the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) in U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) competition will go into effect on April 1.

The USEF Board of Directors voted to amend the therapeutic drug rule, restricting the use of NSAIDS to a single variety beginning December 1, 2011.

Prior to December to 2011, two of the seven approved but restricted (by quantity) NSAIDS will still be allowed. It just has to be carefully reported. (The combination of phenylbutazone (“Bute”) and flunixin meglumine (Banamine) is still forbidden.)

Beginning April, 1, 2010, anyone administering two NSAIDs to a horse within five days prior to participating at a USEF-licensed competition will be required to complete and file a NSAID Disclosure Form with the USEF Steward/Technical Delegate or their Designated Competition Office Representative. This form will allow the USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Program to collect valuable data regarding the use of NSAIDs in competition horses.

The USEF has determined that it is the responsibility of the competitor and their veterinarian to make certain the use of two NSAIDs within five days of competing is reported on the NSAID Disclosure Form and is properly filed with the USEF steward/technical delegate or their designated competition office representative.

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Brouhaha Over Hyperflexion Overshadowing the Progressive Medication Scale Issue

From Fran Jurga’s post, “The Quiet Americans”

For whatever reason, Americans are neither rallying to protest nor hurrying to embrace the announcement of changes in FEI medication rules two weeks ago that ended the long years of zero tolerance of medications for all horses competing in FEI-sanctioned events. It’s not like Americans not to have something to say.

This is in distinct contrast to how Americans responded emotionally and emphatically to the viral “blue tongue” dressage video that circulated on the Internet last month. It was impossible to find anyone who hadn’t seen it and didn’t have an opinion—and most of that was negative.

The relatively few opinions that are posted on American forums and chat rooms so far regarding the FEI’s medication policy change seem to be contradictory: it’s not ok to pull on the curb rein of a dressage horse in the warm-up ring, but it is ok to make a radical switch in medication policy. A micro incident with one horse excites the masses; a macro policy change affecting the highest level of sport brings a shrug, if that.

Fran hypothesizes that the subtlety and complexity of low medication levels as allowed by the new FEI rules will so confuse the American public that they will not become involved in the debate. As many Americans have not followed the international scene, they may even be unaware that there was ever a radical difference in drug policies between US competitions and those in other countries. This gap in attention and response is reflected in the responses to the Jurga Report. According to Fran, 21 readers commented on the November 21 post of the Blue Tongue incident and accompanying YouTube video, roundly condemning the rider, while the news of the medication report garnered only eight comments. Those eight comments were split in their support for for therapeutic administration of low levels of Bute vs. cynicism about the pharmacological corruption of horse sports.

While researching the concerns of the Europeans, I found out about the strict equine welfare laws in some nations and also the rather dark history of the use of medication in FEI events before the all-out ban. I think it is comparable to the debates about legalizing gambling in some states in the USA. The states that have it don’t think it is a big deal; those that don’t are horrified by the possible Pandora’s Box of evils associated with it. Both sides have valid points of view.

Fran states that what is missing from the debate about the use of medications in FEI competitions is a unified worldwide agreement of the specific ways in which medication affects the performance horse and, by extension, the reputation of equestrian sports. “Kudos to the vets on both sides who are willing to speak up. The elephant in this room is a clear definition of the responsibility for equine welfare, not a level of Bute or Banamine.”

Therapeutic levels of medication are nothing new to US competition, since USEF rules for competitions within the U.S. for most disciplines allow low levels of certain medications. That’s the American system; our veterinary advisers disagree with their European colleagues and believe that allowing medication in performance horses is in the best interest of the horse…Yet, when the big events came, the Americans always met–or valiantly tried to meet–the challenge of competing on the international stage without the same drugs they used at home. The frequent success of “clean” American horses under FEI rules often goes unmentioned and may be all the more extraordinary.

All that will change in 2010 when the world comes to the US for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. We can expect plenty of international riders to be competing in the US over the summer months leading up to the Games. They will bring not just their best horses but also their politics and their opinions with them and Americans may learn, at last, that we are part of a larger horse world where not everyone thinks the same as we do…There are 300 days to go…I hope that is time enough for some compromise or peacemaking at the highest international levels that will appease all parties and make the first WEG in the USA the wonderful celebration it was always meant to be.

Fran has provided three downloadable reference documents on the FEI’s new medication policy document on the new medication policies of the FEI. As Fran says, STAY INFORMED.

Questions and Answers

Prohibited Substance List

Belgian Vet Praises New Med Policy

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Horse Hero Dr. David Marlin on the Need for Non-Polarized Study of Rollkur

Horse Hero Dr. David Marlin on the Need for Non-Polarized Study of Rollkur

The FEI is in a difficult position. I would have to say that in many instances, Rollkur does not look nice. Is it proven to cause injury, pain or distress? To date, no. Can we be sure it causes pain and distress? No. Therefore it is hard for the FEI to act and ban it. In any case, what are they going to ban? The head going past the vertical? The head being more than 15° past the vertical for five minutes at a time? No more than a total of 15 minutes of Rollkur in every hour of exercise? I have to say that I do not know the answers but I can think of some of the questions we need to be asking. For example, does hyperflexion (I am using this term now as I am trying to deal with the science) inhibit breathing? Almost certainly. To what extent do different degrees of hyperflexion reduce the amount of air the horse can move in and out? Does this result in decreased blood oxygen levels? Does the horse experience a sensation of difficulty in breathing?

David Marlin

Dr. David Marlin

In his most recent blogpost on Horse Hero.com, Dr. David Marlin calls urgently for more research into the medical and training issues related to Rollkur because, in his words, “the debate so far has been primarily emotive.” As there remains to be a standard definition for Rollkur, Dr. Marlin fears it would be difficult to know what would be studied. Somehow I find this hard to believe.

Like pornography, I know Rollkur when I see it. Dr. Marlin has a good point, however, when he states that, due to the debate’s polarizing effects and the surrounding drama, it will be difficult to induce riders who practice it to share with investigators what they do and how they do it. Imagine porn stars showing up for scientific examination of their methods. Perhaps they might be more proud of what they do than those caught red-handed using Rollkur should be. Marlin suggests that the current drama will merely drive proponents of Rollkur underground, so that it is never seen at competitions, but practiced only at home, denying veterinary science of a valuable opportunity for study.

From a scientific perspective, I do not believe the FEI has the evidence to “jump” and make changes and nor do I think they should do at present. I do believe there are other issues in equestrian sport which might well have a higher priority if we are looking to improve welfare.

He’s got a point about “other issues.” I don’t agree that they should take precedence. There are a lot of committees at the FEI, and there’s no reason why they can’t work on more than one issue at a time. One of the issues he brings to the fore:

The “clean sport” initiative, specifically the use of bute. “Pain is there for a reason. It’s a warning that something is not right. Pain makes you take it easy. Pain is protective. That’s just one way to look at this issue.”

Pretty short list, to be sure. It’s a matter of priorities, as with most things. Clearing the sport of its association with pure horror ought to take precedence.

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