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☛ Is Equine Drug Testing Fair 7-10-14





By Rick Dennis
July 10, 2014
In my previous Horse Doping segments 1 and 2, concentration and focal points were directed to the horseracing industry primarily due, in part, to the litany of available publications on the subject matter as well as the heightened awareness of the prevalence of drug use in this equine industry by the release of television documentaries, e.g., HBO Real Time Sports, etc.


Unfortunately, the horseracing industry is not the only industry allowing the use of drugs in horses in an acceptable manner.  The performance-horse industry is also inundated with equine drug use both in an approved manner as well as an unapproved manner.  Nonetheless, drugs are being administered to performance horses for training and showing purposes.


This has given rise to various nonprofit performance-horse organizations establishing drug-testing policies and procedures to counter the prevalent use of drugs in performance horses by trainers and others, which is comprised of approved drugs at certain levels as well as prohibited drug categories which allows a particular horse with either a physiological or psychological impairment to remain in the show pen.


From a Risk Analyst’s view point, the approval of any category of drug by a nonprofit may become problematic to the nonprofit and pose a legal liability, especially when a horse in competition causes injury to another while under the influence of an approved drug category by direct result or indirect result, e.g., collapsing in the show arena while in competition causing injury to the rider or others.


Another perceived risk involves drug administration not to exceed certain levels. This may become problematic to the administrator as well as the nonprofit review committee negotiating whether a positive test result is an actual violation. Each horse absorbs drugs at a different rate and also depletes a drug from its system at different rates. Therefore, in lies the problem. This is especially realized when the administrator is a trainer whose knowledge of pharmacology and metabolisms is limited in scope.


On Jan. 3, 2013, I authored and released an article in entitled “Nonprofit Equine Drug Testing Programs.”  The article’s intent was to address the ever-prevalent equine nonprofit drug-testing policies and procedures adoption as well as informing the general horse industry populous of the manner and means of conducting a proper drug test which is fair to the participant and the nonprofit alike.

Click for Nonprofit Equine Drug Testing Programs>>


In my recent review of a myriad of nonprofit equine drug-testing policies and procedures, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) without a doubt has the best. I found their equine drug-testing policy to be fair and it protects the horse, the horse owner and the nonprofit. In fact, on the United States Equestrian Federation’s web site, the following announcement concerning human testing for individuals competing in Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) events is available for review.



When you are competing under (FEI) rules, you (the human athlete) are also subject to drug testing. It is your responsibility to verify if you are taking any medications on the Prohibited Substances List. If you find that you are on a prohibited substance, a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) can be submitted with sufficient medical back-up. Please review all of the following reference tools, and if you have any questions please contact Kathleen Richards at 908.326.1152, or via email

Click for FEI Human Drug Testing Policy>>



One of the most interesting aspects of the FEi equine drug testing protocol is the implementation of the split sample collection procedure that allows the owner to challenge a positive drug test. Essentially, the protocol requires the use of sample A and sample B. Unlike other equine performance horse nonprofits, such as the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), that subscribe to the single-sample utilization method, the split-sample technique requires sample A to be analyzed and sample B frozen and untested until a challenge emerges. For additional information on (USEF) drug testing, click on the link below.

Click for USEF Drug-Testing Policy>>


The pitfall when using the single-source method is realized when the sample is contaminated at the laboratory during processing and/or testing, because the same sample will be used for any challenges and predicated by sample volume availability.  Therefore, it’s very predictable: if the first contaminated sample revealed a false positive then the second testing under challenge will also yield a very predictable false-positive result as well.  Any punishments issued thereafter to the owner or others will be done so under false pretenses with no way for the owner or others to exonerate themselves from the false-positive drug test result. 


The single collection method also virtually eliminates any challenges to the laboratories reliability in conducting equine drug tests.  In an abundance of caution, please be advised that sample contamination at the laboratory does occur. I had first-hand experience on this subject when one of my submitted samples became the subject of laboratory contamination, resulting in an audit.


Another remarkable aspect of the USEF drug-testing protocol is the use of both urine and blood samples for analysis. It has long been known in private-sector employee drug-testing programs, urine yields better results for drugs of abuse than blood. On the other hand, blood yields better results for alcohol testing.


The most significant deficiency I noted during my review of performance-horse drug testing policies is that a clear and complete laboratory certification standard for accreditation is not fully revealed, except to infer accreditation by “industry standards.”  My question is, exactly what are “industry standards” and how is accreditation monitored?  Equally, it is also unclear exactly what protocols are followed in the collection and chain-of-custody procedures, except the statement, “Samples will be collected by acceptable industry standards.” Again, exactly what “industry standards” are being referred to?


In the private sector, Federal Regulations (49, CFR, Part 40) defines laboratory certification standards for employee drug testing along with the requirements for sample collection, transportation, analysis and storage as well as certifying a Breath Alcohol Technician (BAT).  For additional information pertaining to Federal Drug & Alcohol testing, click on the following link.
Click for Federal Drug & Alcohol testing>>


Federal Regulations require monitoring the laboratory certification by the issuance of Blind Proficiency Sample Testing by drug-testing consortiums. For each number of samples collected and submitted for testing, the consortium must submit samples which either contain known quantities of prohibited drug metabolites or samples that are free of prohibited drug metabolites under the blind-proficiency testing rule.


In the event the laboratory reports a drug test result inconsistent with the known substances in the blind proficiency samples, this will automatically trigger an audit of the testing laboratory.  If these safeguards are built into human drug testing, why shouldn’t the same safeguards be built into nonprofit equine drug-testing policies, especially in lieu of fines and penalties being handed out by the nonprofit for violations?  These types of safeguards offer a program agenda that is fair and balanced to the participants, unlike various equine drug-testing policies that I’ve reviewed and analyzed and that I determined to be lacking or flawed.


From personal experience, I identified one particular flaw in a nonprofit equine drug-testing policy.  A number of years back, I accompanied a client to an AQHA show. He was showing a bridle horse I trained in the Amateur Reining and Cow Horse classes and won both classes.  At the conclusion of the classes, the sample collectors arrived and drew blood samples for drug testing.


When I requested a split sample, the veterinarian informed me he was not required to collect more than one sample. After an extended period of time, the client contacted me and asked about his horse’s drug test.  I promptly contacted AQHA and was referred to their drug-testing laboratory.  After contacting the drug-testing laboratory and inquiring about the drug test result, I was promptly informed, “No news is good news.”


I further learned that unlike the private sector side that issues both positive and negative drug-test results, the equine side (in this particular instance) did not issue negative drug-test results, further informing me that if a positive drug test is identified, it would be reported to AQHA and a representative would contact the owner. This unorthodox behavior was troubling to me since I was the trainer and caretaker of the horse, which meant I was also vulnerable and responsible for the drug-test result, which subjects me to the same penalties as the owner.


Another important aspect of an equine drug-testing program refers to an individual proving his or her innocence when a positive drug test is reported and no one in the care of the horse is responsible for the actual administration of a prohibited drug to a horse. This theory brings to mind an incident some years ago when an owner’s horse failed a drug test at the AQHA World Show, which also adds credibility to the theory.  The end result was the owner was allowed to write an article in the Quarter Horse Journal blaming the mishap on terrorists.


So my question to them is, “Where are the safeguards, checks and balances in the system to ensure a drug test was even conducted, as well as verifying the money collected at the show was even utilized?”  To date, neither a positive or negative drug test has been reported to the participant or myself! Additionally, where is the security at the show grounds to ensure the horses stalled there are not contaminated by a prohibited drug administered by another, outside the realm of authority and control of the horse being tested?


The most ambiguous statement I noted, during my review, pertains to animal welfare, which is perhaps derived from a convoluted thought process at best. Since when did the administering of drugs to horses either during training or to allow them to show have anything to do with animal welfare? So is it really about the welfare of the horse or is it about collecting vast amounts of cash from a drug-testing policy.


At the 2013 AQHA Convention, the AQHA passed out a brochure with their financials. Included in Operating Revenues was Drug Testing revenue totaling $1,358,234 for 2013 and $1,831,878 for 2012. Yet there are no Operating Expenses listed for the cost of drug testing. Could it be included in the over $9.8 million in General and Administrative expenses or in some other general account not listed in the financials  – or were there no expenses for drug testing, meaning they didn’t actually send drug samples to the laboratory to be tested?

Click for AQHA Financials>>


To realize this theory, one must understand the private-sector concept as well as the equine drug-testing concept.


In the private sector, a company generally institutes a drug-testing profile consisting of pre-employment, random, post-accident and probable-cause testing, which means the company only pays for tests emanating from individual sample collections.


In the equine sector, each class participant pays an across-the-board fee for drug tests. The monetary reward is realized in the small quantity of random samples collected, analyzed and paid for versus the amount of collected drug-testing fees that are yielding an enormous amount of cash to the nonprofit in the long run – especially if they didn’t send any samples to the lab to be drug tested.


So is animal welfare really at stake here or is making a lot of money an additional motivating factor?  In my opinion, if animal welfare is the primary motivating factor, then why aren’t drugs banned in the performance-horse industry, except in the normal case of injury or illness for recuperation. If a horse requires drugs to be trained or compete due to a physiological or psychological impairment, shouldn’t it be retired? This brings up another important fact that is included in a nonprofit drug-testing policy pertaining to a level playing field.


Where’s the level playing field when horses using drugs to compete are competing against horses not on drugs?  Another important motivation factor to consider in the scenario is the money made by the show producer, trainers, veterinarians, drug manufacturers and nonprofits that are realized by keeping horses in the show pen.  A nonprofit realizes cash earnings from shows in two categories: 1) a percentage of entry fees and 2) across-the-board drug-testing fees.  Essentially, everyone is making money and the horse is stuck in the equation.


The most puzzling concept I encountered during my analysis was the use of the word “presumed” relative to equine drug-sample collection and test results. In simple terminology, a positive drug test is similar to being pregnant. Either you are or you’re not! The same applies to a positive drug test.  Either it is or it isn’t!  The definition of presumed is: 1) simply suppose that something is probably the case and 2) take for granted.  Where’s the certifying scientist in this matter?


Notwithstanding, what I have reviewed in various nonprofit drug policies simply is inviting a lawsuit in the way they’re structured and enforced. Law firms are actively engaged in advertising on the Internet, the representation of individuals whose horses have positive drug-test results that could lead to a costly legal battle. My suggestion would be for a nonprofit to consult with a professional in the field of drug analysis instead of either trying to go it alone or by plagiarizing another’s policy.  Remember – when you copy another’s work, you also copy and accept responsibility for any flaws!

Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved.


Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridles!

(Rick Dennis has combined law enforcement, drug enforcement and private-sector drug testing experience and expertise spanning 44 years, He is certified in Federal and State court in drugs of abuse. He is a certified Federal breath alcohol technician and specimen collector as well as a former owner of Certified Lab Inc., one of the first employee drug-testing laboratories in Louisiana – 1987.)


Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Managing Member
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
Web Site:
Wind River Security, Consultation and Risk Analysis
Wind River Drug, Alcohol and DNA Testing
Wind River Ranch – Reined Cow Horse Breeding, Training, Exhibition and Sales





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  1. What a great article! That’s serving it up in style and thank you for making all of us aware of the drug testing ramifications in our industry.

  2. Thank you again! If my horse ever has a positive drug test, I know who I’m calling.

  3. Thank you for being a champion of the horse.

  4. Way to go. Some folks will cheat to win at any cost, including the horse. I wish I had the guts to say this! thanks for being my spokesman!

  5. Amazing! Your next article should be titled, “How many ways can a nonprofit empty a members pocketbook?”

  6. Is this the new AQHA retirement plan?

  7. Mr. Dennis,
    From an attorney’s prospective, your assessment is correct in every respect. Thank you for providing this invaluable information to the horse industry, especially the assignment and use of presumed!!

  8. It’s a World Championship run if I ever read one. Thanks for the info!

  9. At the NRHA Reining shows in New Jersey just about every horse gets the needle before they show. When I found out my trainer was drugging my horse it made me so mad. I’m passing your article to all my friends in the industry. Thanks for exposing this tragedy.

  10. Seems horse nonprofits have no bounds when it comes to making money. Nice article.

  11. Wonder if the testers and powers to be are being tested.

  12. Thanks for this article. It’s been a long time coming!

  13. Big boy you certainly out do yourself from one article to the next. Good stuff.

  14. Rick, You’re amazing. What an articulate way of protecting the horse with the truth. Thanks.

  15. Great job!!!

  16. OMG! this article is way over the top and way over due!! Thank you for your courage.

  17. I give your Segment 3 a two-thumbs up!

  18. The part about testing the riders should scare the pants off a lot of folks. Enjoyed it.

  19. Good article. Intuitive, concise, exploit.

  20. I talked to a USEF dressage trainer today. She said the announcement for human testing was made last year and she has to agree to testing at every show. Drugs include all sports-enhancing drugs and masking agents.

  21. Question: Would you clarify whether you’re for or against drug testing horses?

    • That’s a great question! First and foremost, I’m all for equine drug testing as long as it’s fair and balanced and implemented in the right way.

      As a professional risk analyst, I tend to evaluate every situation to identify any risks associated with a particular subject matter. Thus, I have a calculating mind.

      For instance, I don’t want to leave my professional career in the hands of a single-sample collection, nor would I leave the evaluation of my drug test results in the hands of three veterinarians, one horse trainer and a non professional of their choosing as the NCHA does.

      Exactly what, if anything, do any of these individuals know about drug testing protocols?

      I hope I answered your question.

  22. Really liked your horse doping articles.

  23. I find your horse-doping articles an uncanny approach to exposing a reality in our industry we all know exists but individually approached this aboration with the Ostrich Syndrome: Hear no evil, see no evil, there is no evil!

  24. FYI: The NFR has a needles-receptacles outlet box down every avenue at a the stables at the Thomas and Mack Center. I was totally amazed when I saw that at the NFR, 2013 & 2014.

    Your articles are very forthright and I admire your candor on this delicate subject. Keep writing!!

  25. In addition to the ambiguity in nonprofit drug testing programs, I would also like to bring to light another ambiguity: transparency or should I say, “the lack of or nonexistence of.” Good article.

  26. Rick,
    Your article really opened my eyes to this side of the horse industry people like myself are not aware of. Very informative article and I enjoyed it very much Thanks for the tips.

  27. Bravado!! Many thanks.

  28. I enjoyed your article so much I handed it out to my friends at the last show. All horse people need to be aware of this area of the industry,

  29. Well stated!

  30. Articles like this take the guess work out of the process. Looking forward to the next one!

  31. Very impressive stuff!

  32. I just discovered your article on FB and I must say it took my breath away. Had no idea this was going on.

  33. Bet the powers to be hate your frankness, but I love it!!!!!!!

  34. FYI. Not all trainers subscribe to drugging horses for training and showing purposes, me in particular! Well-put article.

  35. Horse owners need more articles like this. Thank you for taking your time to share your professional knowledge. Awesome web site.

  36. From an ex-cutters perspective, my viewpoint is nonprofits have abandoned the true meaning of their existence; the horse, and have opted instead for lucrative salaries, pension plans and complex showing rules. No more fun! Really liked the article.

  37. Wow! What a great article. Where have you been?

  38. Hi – thanks for the FB article. I hope all horse enthusiasts read it.

  39. Just right!

  40. This site is smoking with a lot of great stuff. Thanks to you and allaboutcutting.

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