Horse with show ribbon. Tumblr image.

Pony’s death draws notice to medication in the show ring (NYT)

Cross-posted from The New York Times
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WRITTEN BY WALT BOGDANICH

Horse with show ribbons. Tumblr image.
Horse with show ribbons. Tumblr image.

Early on the morning of May 26, Kristen Williams and her daughter, Katie, arrived at a barn on the grounds of the Devon Horse Show, where elite competitors in full dress have entertained spectators for the last century on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

Ms. Williams had paid thousands of dollars to lease a pony for Katie to ride in a hunter competition, a 12th birthday present. Soon after arriving, their trainer left to administer an injection to a nearby pony, Humble, that Katie’s friend, also celebrating her 12th birthday, was scheduled to ride shortly.

Moments later, with Ms. Williams and her daughter watching, Humble collapsed and died. The death of a supposedly fit pony about to carry a young rider over hurdles was worrisome by itself, but circumstances surrounding the death made it even more so.

In the three days before Humble died, he had been scheduled to receive 15 separate drug treatments, including anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and muscle relaxants, according to his medication chart.

“The average horse that walks in my clinic here doesn’t get anything like that,” said Dr. Kent Allen, chairman of both the veterinary and the drugs and medications committees of the United States Equestrian Federation, the sport’s nonprofit governing body. “It gets a diagnosis and then gets a very specific, appropriate treatment.”

The horse-racing industry has openly debated the influence of drugs on the safety and integrity of the sport, and has taken significant steps this year to minimize it. But in the cloistered equestrian world, medicating horses has attracted much less public attention.

Since 2010, random drug tests at various equestrian events, including the Olympic trials, have uncovered dozens of violations for substances like cocaine, antipsychotics, tranquilizers and pain medication — even ginger placed in a horse’s anus to make its tail stick out.

While show-horse trainers have abused some of the same drugs that have caused problems in racing, the Equestrian Federation has lagged behind in regulating how they are administered. Now, the circumstances surrounding Humble’s death have become a rallying point for those who believe that the federation should more aggressively investigate drug use. Continue reading >>

WHAT YOU CAN DO

The United States Equestrian Federation states:

The USEF is dedicated to uniting the equestrian community, honoring achievement, and serving as guardians of equestrian sport.

If you are alarmed at the abusive and deadly drugging of show horses and ponies and wish to urge the USEF to take immediate steps to rectify this situation, please use the contact information below to send them a respectful message.

EMAIL

Stephen Schumacher, DVM
Chief Administrator, Drugs and Medication
Email: sschumacher@usef.org

Janice Postlethwaite
Director, Drugs and Medication
Email: jpostlethwaite@usef.org

You may also wish to send a copy to:

Email: medequestrian@aol.com

SOCIAL MEDIA

— Tweets @USEquestrian
— Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/usequestrianfederation?ref=ts&fref=ts. As of this writing, we see only a single post in the “Recent Posts by Others” section.

Thank you everyone.

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