Drugging

I don’t care what discipline you ride in. If you are naïve enough to believe that nowhere in the world does someone in your discipline partake in illegal medicating (or other abusive behavior for that matter) then you just might live under a rock. Now before you get your panties in a wad I want you to really think about it. Even if you haven’t witnessed this behavior first hand you have  most likely heard about it or read about it.

By making these statements I am in no way saying that everyone does it or even that everyone in x discipline is guilty. I think when looking at your primary English disciplines the likely hood of finding a doped horse probably ranks hunter/jumper, dressage, then eventing. Yes, I realize that I am making generalizations but I really just haven’t seen as much blatant disregard for the (medication) rules in any discipline the way you see it in HJ land. This is my opinion based on my direct experiences. Instead of being saddened by all of the people that seem to have no respect for a level playing field I am frankly disgusted.

I have limited experience in each area and am in no way claiming to be an expert of anything. I would say that I grew up in HJ land and then landed in eventing as a young adult and now dabble a bit between both worlds doing low level eventing and jumpers. My adolescence probably would have involved quite a few less tears if my trainers had lacked more morals and been okay with doping the sometimes difficult horses that I rode back then. But he wasn’t and while I think we all walk away with different things from each trainer that trainer in particular taught me that the horse ALWAYS comes first. If you can’t achieve the desired result naturally than there is a different part of the equation that needs to be evaluated.

Unfortunately you don’t see all trainers these days taking that route. I think that in part this is due to the way that these disciplines have evolved and the unrealistic expectations in some areas for the demeanor of the horse. What happened to a horse being able to enjoy its work? Have a little more spirit?

Today the Chronicle Of The Horse published an article about the suspensions of Larry Glefke and Kelley Farmer. Now you might somehow believe that this was an error and how could they… but people don’t get suspended for 2 years and fined without some evidence and it honestly makes me lose a lot of respect for said professionals. What is more upsetting is that the chronicle has no issues flaming this “unseen abuse” but when there is obvious mistreatment or pain being inflicted on a horse (aka bloody mouths – multiple times) their take is that we (the outspoken amateurs) are just having fun shaming a specific individual. Witch hunts are in style apparently.

Rant over… What is your take on these developments? Do  you find yourself angered as I am? Do you think we are all a bunch of sensitive ninnies and need to accept that this is the way it is? I am truly intrigued to see where everyone falls. Blogging lends us a truly diverse group of people to bounce ideas off of and I can’t wait to see where you all fall on this subject.

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16 Comments

  1. I worked for an A show hunter trainer in high school and was always amazed by the amount of drugs getting pushed into the ponies. That was…ahem…a long time ago, but it doesn’t appear to be getting any better 🙁 Sad.

  2. So many thoughts about this! It really is disgusting to see so many people turning to doping to get the “picture perfect” round, and I think a lot of that has to do with how judging has changed over the years. Slow and half-dead has been rewarded. There does seem to be some hope- unofficial word from the USHJA is that they’re trying to encourage some of the brilliance that you used to see in the hunters, and I know this past USEF meeting had extensive discussions on how to crack down harder on doping. I’m hoping this will mean that people will be less tempted to sedate their horses just to slow their pace. At those upper levels with so much money on the line, I’m not surprised that people turn to questionable behaviors to win. Disgusted? Absolutely. Surprised? Nope. I sincerely hope that with more attention and strenuous crackdowns, along with a shift in the judging, we can get to a healthier state.

  3. I’m glad you qualified this with people do it in every discipline. Because they do, regardless of if people have first hand knowledge of it. As a H/J rider I am not deaf, nor blind to what is going on in our corner of Equestrian Sport and it pisses me off because I don’t drug my horses to compete.

    My old barn hosted Dressage shows and clinics for a while, and there was a decent amount of drugging going on in the barn, same thing with some Eventers I had come across (and frankly why my opinion of Eventers was colored so negatively for so long) though they mainly drugged not to sedate but to cover up lameness. Still drugging but a different reason. There is drugging in Western down to the lowest level of 4H and FFA horse shows. I let a girl at my barn borrow Carlos for FFA and her FFA coach (another teenager) told her that they would drug Carlos for the horse show so he’d be quieter in the showmanship. I chewed that girl out and was present for all practices and horse shows after that…

  4. I have very limited experience with showing at all (save maybe two pony club shows as a teen) so I haven’t seen much.

    I know of a local organization that does a lot of parades/public events/exhibitions with their horses. I commended a member on her horsemanship once, saying that I don’t think my horses could handle that. She told me all the horses were “aced” for every event. And that it was for the safety of the riders, the horses and the public. I was honestly kind of shocked. And still am.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly – drugging horses to make them quieter or cover up lameness is unacceptable no matter what discipline. If your horse isn’t trained or sound enough to compete, don’t show it. End of story. There is a hunt near me that aces horses to FOXHUNT, which absolutely horrifies me. Having a horse sedated while riding over terrain seems like an absolute death wish, but like others have commented above, their rationale is “safety” for the riders. Granted, this particular hunt rarely gets faster than a slow canter, but it’s still insane!

  6. From personal experience, I think breed shows outrank our general sport horse disciplines in drugging. I have seen all sorts of things done to Morgans, Saddlebreds, Arabians, QHs. It’s such a shame. Glad these two professionals are being punished.

  7. You already know I’m not keeping my mouth shut about this. Drugging in no way has the horse’s best interests at heart. The new penalty guidelines are a good start at deterrence.

  8. I have a hard time understanding the thought process behind someone that would drug their horse like this. Like- did you not think you were going to get caught? Or are you the only one exempt from following the rules? Were you that unimpressed with your own skills and abilities there was no other resolve? At what point did competing and winning become more important than the welfare of the horse and your integrity as a horseman?

    I think if someone drugs their horse for the sake of anything other than the absolute safety and well being of said horse, the horse should be removed from their care and that person should be shunned from the horse community as a whole. Do not pass go, do not collect your pony and prize.

    I just can’t even believe we’re talking about second offenses here either. Like how is it even a thing?! One and done. Period. JMO

  9. Yup. Seen it down and it makes my stomach turn. I guess it’s part of why I prefer to be out of the loop about upper level sport–I like to let my heroes be heroes and not know the nitty gritty because it’s usually disappointing.

  10. I think there are a lot of trainers (and riders too) that just see this as being the norm. Which to me is very, very sad that it has gotten to this point. I can’t imagine trying to run, let alone jump over things while sedated (or otherwise drugged) out of my mind. I just don’t see how anyone can see that as safe.

    I visited South Carolina in October and was pretty surprised how common the use of Ace is. Both in race horse training, as well as in fox hunting. Those are two areas I’ve never had any personal involvement in, so I was previously unaware of the commonality of the use of Ace. I was told that they use a small amount of Ace on a lot of horses first outings (first time on the track, first time out hunting, etc) so the first time is a good time and they slowly wean them off of it. Which in a roundabout way that makes sense, but I still wouldn’t do it.

  11. The horses don’t come first if you want to win that badly. It happens everywhere, & drugging isn’t the only bad thing people do to win. Plus anything can become normal if it’s done enough.

  12. I was really disappointed to see Kelly Farmer wrapped up in such terrible actions. She’s a great rider, and I always enjoyed watching her rounds. But now, I’ll wonder whether her beautiful rounds are due to good riding and training, or just drugs 🙁

  13. Sorry for all the comments, I’m catching up on everything <3

    As you know, the Hunter world is near and dear to my heart. That being said, there needs to be a change, and it starts with the judging. They expanded the judging criteria to allow more “brightness” in the horses, but in my opinion it hasn’t taken hold yet, Judges still score the too quiet horse over the bright eyed, willing hunter any day of the week, And its a damn shame. There would be less lunging, less doping, and more care taken for the horses.

    On the topic of the article, this isn’t their first rodeo, nor will it be their last. I hate to say it, but when a program like that keeps winning, they don’t see a need to change, and believe me, their suspension won’t change their ways. It’s extremely aggravating because owners know this, it’s well known they aren’t the most savory of people, Larry more so then Kelly, but they still send their horses to them. They already have their other rider riding all the horses at the shows without them…