Hard on the heels of the contaminated feed issue, where the Queen’s racehorse Estimate was amongst those banned after testing positive to morphine, comes the news that New Zealand event rider Jock Paget has been cleared of doping allegations.
It must seem like a new lease of life considering that when he was suspended, following the horse’s routine dope testing at last year’s Burghley Horse Trials, his career and reputation were at stake. Instead, he was part of the NZ squad for the WorldEquestrian Games, though retired on the cross-country.
The culprit has been identified as a contaminant in a calmer called LessStressE, made by Trinity Consultants. It is reported that a director of the company admitted that there were no quality controls in place.
Whilst everyone will be delighted that this talented rider has been cleared, the episode raises questions no serious rider can afford to ignore. By serious, I don’t necessarily mean professional, but rather riders who want to do the best for and with their horses.
We all have to accept that whether we are competing at world class level or at Riding Club level, the buck stops with us. We have to be sure that the companies who make and/or sell supplements do everything possible to ensure compliance with rules and guaranteed quality control.
It’s easy enough to say that, but how do you check? After all, it’s highly unlikely you can visit premises and if you could, would you know what to look for? I wouldn’t.
But we do have to ask questions. One of those should be: does the company employ someone who is knowledgeable AND qualified or is there a chance that its greatest strength lies in marketing? Personally, I breathe a sigh of relief when I know a registered nutritionist is on a team.
Maybe we should question ourselves, too. Advances in our knowledge of equine nutrition mean we can give today’s horses far more support than those of even ten years ago, but do we expect too much? There are still owners who think the answer to every dream or problem lies in a supplement tub when, in fact, they’d be better off turning their horse out more or buying one with whom they are compatible.
This way of thinking isn’t restricted to supplements. It also applies to bits: so many riders are endlessly searching for the magic mouthpiece that will turn a horse who goes on the forehand, with his nose poking out, into the next Valegro. Sorry – bitting is an art, but there are no miracles involved.
Whilst I have huge admiration for Jock Paget’s talent as a rider, I’m sure I’m not the only person surprised to learn that Clifton Promise’s feeding regime included seven supplements. I’ll leave that one to fellow blogger Clare MacLeod, who knows far more than me on this subject, should she choose to comment!
The moral of this story is that the right supplements – or, as we should really call them, complementary feedingstuffs – can be a real help, but we must all take our responsibilities seriously. I wouldn’t mind betting that many manufacturers, even though they can already count themselves as conscientious, are double-checking their quality control procedures.
If they aren’t, maybe they should be.