It's Time to Ban All Drugs!
Don Blazer

        It’s time we banned drugs from equestrian events—jumping, western events, rodeo, racing, eventing, dressage.

         I’m not saying we ban “performance enhancing” drugs, I’m saying we ban all drugs…period.

         It would be in the best interest of the horse, horsemen and in the long run, the horse industry.

         I’m fully aware banning drugs would have a negative financial impact; but it would only be for a short period of time.  (Veterinarians, trainers, horse owners and event promoters and sponsors are already running around screaming I’m crazy….such an action would be a disaster from which we could never recover.   Horse feathers!  We will recover, and beautifully, and all those screaming now will in the future be more prosperous.)

         Decide we really care for horses, their welfare, and for humans, and their welfare, and then set a date after which the use of drugs in an equestrian event would not be tolerated; any violator would be stripped of any award and banned from future participation.  (The penalty for violation must be severe to be effective.  Today’s penalties for using illegal drugs aren’t an effective deterrent.)

         If the ban date was set one year in the future, horses and horsemen planning to participate in the event would have plenty of time to get “drug free.” 

        And all it would take to get “clean” would be one or two breed associations to make the commitment and start the ball rolling.

       Horses don’t believe in “no pain, no gain.”  So the first rule for preparing a horse for any performance is “no pain.”

        There are two ways to achieve “no pain.”   First method: be sure the horse is sound, has been trained to a level which makes the event well within his “conditioning” and that the horse has had adequate rest.  Second method: mask the pain with drugs.

         The first method is a time consumer, but in the long run is very beneficial for horses, horsemen and the horse industry.

         The second method is “expedient”, and in the long run may destroy the horse as well as being detrimental to horsemen and the industry.

          Veterinarians who treat performance horses would be the first to be hit financially by a drug ban.   Drugs have their place in veterinary medicine, but not “to get a horse through an event.”  (I am not casting the first stone without guilt….I trained race horses for years and every one of my horses ran on legal amounts of an anti-inflammatory.  I did have joints injected.   I was guilty of using drugs to help keep my horses competitive. )   The use of drugs to keep a horse performing does harm.  And every year there are new drugs being “permitted.”

           Preventative medicine, which is not the norm in the performance horse industry today, would enjoy a major boost.  Performance horse participants would turn to “better care, better training, better nutrition, better conditioning, and better monitoring of the horse’s condition.

           Show horse and competition trainers sanction the use of drugs to keep the winners going.   Older champions are “maintained” so the ribbons and titles keep coming.  But in the long run they are not only hurting the horses, they are hurting themselves and the industry.    

           If the older horse was given his “reward” instead of drugs, there would be room for new, younger, sounder champions.  Someone has to train those horses….and someone has to breed the horses to replace the “retiring” champions.

           Keeping horses going on drugs depresses the sale of horses, depresses the breeding of sounder horses, and depresses the improvement of training skills and methods.

           Congress is going to hold hearings on “injuries and the use of drugs “ with the focus is on the horse racing industry.

           It’s a waste of Congressional time and taxpayer money— the arguments from both sides will sound plausible and convince no one.  And horsemen know the truth—when drugs are used to continue or enhance performance the results are the same…a deterioration of the body and eventual breakdown. 

          The horse industry shouldn’t need Congress to tell us the right thing to do.

           We need to bite the bullet and ban drugs from equestrian events

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