Drugs and doping in sport is always a hot topic, in the competitive riding world as well as ours. Before competing, horses are often tested for the improper use of drugs and other banned substances, and failure to stick to these rules can have serious consequences.

With zero tolerance policies in place, any event affiliated with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) must do its best to ensure competitors aren’t using any of these banned substances. These substances are laid out in the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations.

Devil’s Claw

Of course, the best way to avoid stress when entering into competitions is to familiarize yourself with the FEI’s banned substances list for 2016. The most recent addition, and one that many riders will be familiar with, is ‘harpogoside’, commonly known as ‘devil’s claw’.

Names after the hooked, claw-like pods of the shrub, this anti-inflammatory substance has pain-relieving properties long used to ease muscle pain in horses, and in some cases, arthritis in humans. Equine devil’s claw comes from the Harpagophytum procumbens root, which is native to South Africa and has been used for over 250 years.

It’s important to note that products may contain devil’s claw without listing it as an ingredient. Common trade names include Harpagoside, NoBute, Buteless, Devil’s Relief, and Nil-Bute.

Do Animalife products contain devil’s claw?

No Animalife products contain devil’s claw. The Vetrofen Intense range, which is ideal for performance horses, is safe to use under FEI rules, and it is an excellent alternative to devil’s claw. Horses with joints that experience a lot of wear, tear and stress can benefit from Vetrofen Intense, and you won’t need to worry about FEI-banned substances.

Following the FEI’s rules

The FEI’s message is very clear: if in doubt about a substance, don’t give it to your horse. Make sure you know the rules, or check with your governing body or vet if you are unsure. If your horse does need horse supplements, make sure your vet knows that it is a competition horse.

Always check that all the horse feeds and supplements you are using are certified free of prohibited substances. This includes any herbal and other non-medical substances used, because if something contains a plant extract, a horse may well test positive.

To avoid cross-contamination and the risk of accidentally introducing banned substances to your horse, do not store feed from other species in any area used for preparing or storing horse feed.

Buy commercial horse feeds and supplements only from reputable manufacturers, such as Animalife, which operates under the strictest quality-control standards.

How are horses tested for banned substances under the FEI?

Most winning horses are tested routinely and others are selected at random. Usually, their urine and blood are collected under the direct supervision of an FEI testing official. Each sample is split into two parts, known as A and B Samples.

Under FEI rules your horse can be tested any time during the competition, from one hour before the beginning of the first horse inspection and terminating half an hour after the announcement of the final results of the last competition at the Event. The authorities are testing levels as low as several parts per billion (ppb).

If your horse was treated close to competition or you have any doubt as to whether a substance is still present in the horse’s system, you must report this immediately upon arrival at the show.

What happens if I am caught?

Your horse must be ‘clean’ of prohibited substances, such as devil’s claw, at the time of competition to avoid violating the regulations. In recent years a number of horses and riders have been disqualified and lost individual or team medals after testing positive for substances on the prohibited substance list. If you ride in a team, not just your but your team’s future is at risk too.

If the horse tests positive for devil’s claw you will automatically be provisionally suspended. The FEI will firstly conduct an investigation to ensure the integrity of the positive test. They will look into whether any medication forms were filed for that horse, as well as whether veterinary regulations and laboratory procedures were properly followed. After this the person responsible will be offered the opportunity to submit explanations, witness statements, and expert opinions, in his or her defence. They will also be given the opportunity for a final fearing before an FEI tribunal, or they can submit all of the documents in the case to the FEI tribunal to render a decision. Fines and legal costs are also included in this.

In the event of any problems at FEI-level events where drug testing is being conducted, keep small samples of feed and supplements along with bag tags and/or a record of the batch number, from about one month prior to the commencement of a competition period.

Alternatives to devil’s claw

Vetrofen Intense contains a completely natural antioxidant blend that targets both comfort and recovery in all horses, especially after exercise. It has been scientifically formulated to help horses and ponies when they require support in dealing with intense activity. This alternative to devils claw supports the body’s inflammatory response to aid recovery to bruising, strains or injury as well as supporting function and flexibility in joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, all of which can all weaken your horse’s performance.

Vetrofen Intense Instant Syringe is easy to administer orally, and thanks to its size, each syringe is perfect for taking to competitions and events.