Certain substances that could give a performance advantage – or disadvantage – to horses during competition are classed as ‘prohibited substances’. The British Equine Trade Association (BETA) defines a prohibited substance as ‘any substance that can exert an effect on a horse’ and the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA) states that:

‘You should assume that any medication or supplement that has, or claims to have, an effect on horses is prohibited unless you have specific advice from the BHA Equine Health and Welfare Department that states otherwise.’

Prohibited substances include medications, some herbal constituents and naturally occurring prohibited substances (NOPS). NOPS are found in feed or supplement ingredients, or as a result of cross-contamination during processing or transportation before an ingredient reaches a feed manufacturing mill.

Any substance that exerts an effect on the horse can be classed as a prohibited substance for competition use.

The ruling international body of horse sport, the FEI, states their aim of having a list of prohibited substances is ‘to ensure that horses do not have their performance enhanced by means of prohibited substances, which in turn, ensures fair play in competition and maintains the welfare of the horse.’

For a detailed list of substances prohibited for horses competing under FEI rules, click here. Riders should regularly check the list because it will be updated from time to time. The list includes authorised medicines and NOPS. The FEI give advice on substances allowed in training but not competition, and also substances that are not acceptable at any time.

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) system mirrors the FEI system, and more information can be found here. The British Riding Clubs also use the FEI rules.

Regarding rules of racing, the BHA states that a prohibited substance is ‘a substance which originates externally to a horse, whether or not it is endogenous to it, and which falls in any of the categories listed in their schedule of prohibited substances in racing. There is a great deal of useful information on their website, including information about withdrawal times for commonly used therapeutic medications, and a code of practice for medication use. All prohibited substances given to a horse under the care of a trainer must be recorded, including medications and supplements.

It’s the competitor’s responsibility to understand the relevant rules on prohibited substances for their competition.

Riders competing under rules other than that of the FEI or BHA should contact their competing body to clarify the relevant rules. It is always the competitor’s responsibility to know the rules under which they are competing. It can be confusing from a practical point of view, but with information from the veterinarian about allowed medication, and useful information such as the poster BETA have issued explaining how to practically avoid positive tests for prohibited substances, competitors should be confident they have done all they can to reduce the risk of their horse getting a positive test.

Next week I will be taking a more detailed look at NOPS, their sources and how, despite a scheme designed to reduce the risk of them causing a positive test, there is never any guarantee.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.