While the committee members agreed in principle, they suggested a few exceptions such as IV antibiotics and dexamethasone. The final version of a rule-change proposal will most likely allow those drugs to be administered intravenously by a veterinarian less than 12 hours before a class, although there was a fair amount of discussion on how to prevent abuse of dexamethasone along the way.
There is also a plan underway to make necropsies mandatory for all horses that die at USEF shows in competition or under suspicious circumstances.
Committee member Ned Bonnie championed another prong of the attack against over-medication and drugging. “We have for years said that it’s voluntary for a person to give information, and there’s no penalty for refusing to give information to the attorney for the USEF. That was made patently clear in the Devon case,” he said referring to the controversy over the death of the pony Humble at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) after an injection.
“We need to do something about that. I’ve drafted a change in the application for membership to USEF that would require a member of USEF to answer questions presented to them by attorney for USEF to produce the records of that exhibitor including vet bills, and details like that,” Bonnie continued. “There are things we can do constructively to assist a well-designed drug program. There are additional facts that can be brought to bear that the laboratory is not capable of producing.”
While the committee members applauded Bonnie’s efforts, Allen made the point that changing the drug culture of the horse show industry wasn’t something the USEF veterinarians were going to do by themselves.
O’Connor referred back to the eventing crisis in 2008 when horses and riders were dying in unusually high numbers. “We’ve been on the front page of The New York Times before. We’ve been in front of Bryant Gumbel before. The process of being able to deal with difficult questions that are being asked in the public is to answer them,” he said. “Answer them in a truthful way that says it comes down to responsibility. This is how we have tried to be responsible up until now. We realize there are some issues. We realize there are cultural issues. This is our responsible tactic to go into the future. The act of responsibility, much more than talking about a specific side of it, becomes the argument. I believe that is the same exact way we should go at this. The responsibility is the important part. This is how we’ve tried to be responsible and this is how we’re going to be responsible in the future.”
Kathy Meyer, USEF SVP of Marketing and Communications, suggested that a summit meeting, similar to the eventing safety summit meeting held in 2008, might well be on the docket in the near future to address the drugging issues.
“We’re trying to take all of these groups and share all of this and come out with an overarching plan,” she said.
To read a complete wrap-up about the USEF Annual Convention, check out the Feb. 4 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.