Horses are such amazing and majestic animals, and I have a hard time understanding the mentality of many that participate in any horse-related sport (hunters, eventing, racing, just to name a few) that think the quickest and easiest way to ‘manage’ their mount is through the use of drugs. In most venues most drugs are banned and there is random testing. The word ‘random’ is the problem. There isn’t enough monitoring of trainers and riders and what they do to their horses to get them to WIN.
I speak from experience, having boarded my horses at a big hunter show barn. I didn’t know any different or know any better (I was a new horse owner), but it seemed strange to me that the horses rarely got turned out. If they did get turn out, it was in the indoor ring, alone. Can’t have a fancy show horse getting scraped up! So my poor horse was turned out once a week if he was lucky. I would go and ride every day, but he was crazy. I came very close to selling him because he was getting to be too much to handle. The owner of the barn pulled me aside and told me I should consider putting him on Resurpine. I, being a new horse owner, had no idea what this was. She proceeded to tell me that there were a few horses there that were on it, no big deal. She could call her vet and have him send some over. I started getting a funny feeling. “How can your vet just send it over? He has never seen or treated my horse. He knows nothing about him. How can he just prescribe meds for him? And what exactly is this drug?” Her response: “Oh, it is just something that calms them down.”
I went home and did the first thing most of you reading would do: I went to the internet. I was a subscriber to an online forum with a very well respected horsewoman, Jessica Jaheil. I sent a question to her about this drug and what it was and how the owner (and my trainer at the time) was recommending I put my horse on it.
Now this was an international forum and she gets thousands of questions. She answered mine almost immediately AND she sent me a personal email. Her answer? “Get out of that barn as fast as you can. That drug is bad news. It is used mainly at racetracks to deaden the horses’ senses to the environment. It can cause respiratory failure, heart attacks, ulcers, or death. Get out of that barn!”
Now I was scared. This was ridiculous. All my horse needed was to be turned out! To run and play with other horses.
So a few days later I was at the barn, chatting with a mother. She also worked there a couple of days a week. She starts telling me how her daughter fell off my horse in a lesson. My horse? What the hell was she doing riding my horse? Well, she was told it was OK by the trainer. “Maybe it was because Willy stumbled and she fell off. Maybe he had too much ACE,” she said. ACE? What??? “Why did he have ACE?” She looks at me like I am nuts, and it finally sinks in that I have no clue what she is talking about. “He gets it everyday. To keep him calm in his stall.” Are you kidding me? (A quote from a horse website: “Acepromazine is a very useful tranquilizer that depresses the central nervous system, causing sedation, relaxation, and a reduction in involuntary movements. It does not provide any relief from pain, however, and will not prevent a horse from moving or kicking (possibly slower) if it is startled or feels pain. Accidental intra-arterial injection usually into the carotid artery during injections into the neck can produce signs ranging from excitement and disorientation to convulsions seizures and even death.“
I moved him four days later.
Drugging of horses is still happening. And I’m sure it happens everywhere. If you can’t handle your horse, maybe he isn’t the horse for you. Or look at his situation – is there something you could change to make life better for him? Is he getting worked enough? If someone suggests doing something you aren’t comfortable with, get out of there and get your horse out too. They aren’t looking out for your best interests, they are looking for a quick fix. Go with your gut and your head. If it sounds like something is wrong, it probably is.
I thought this was good from another website regarding drugging and the issues with drugging:
1) Professionals who do not know, or prefer not to know, the long and short term side effects of the drugs they are administering.
2) Owners who do not KNOW what their trainers are giving their horses.
3) Owners who know but do not care, either because they do not KNOW the tremendously detrimental side effects of such meds or because they simply believe it is necessary to WIN.
These animals would do anything for us. It is time to step up and do something for them.