An Era of Performance Enhancing Drugs A horse and rider partnership is unlike anything, a rider must learn to communicate without words to their horse in order to be successful, but even an Olympic rider can't always know what is going on in the mind of their partner. Show jumping horses begin training at three years old; they are taught how to be ridden and how to behave, but there are always days when horses just want to be horses instead of athletes. To fix this problem, just like doctors fix problems of ADD or ADHD, horse trainers and riders administer drugs at the time of a horse show. The equestrian world is a billion-dollar industry, so those involved will go to any lengths in order to win. The United States Equestrian Federation set up laws against the practice of using performance enhancing drugs on horses, so most substances are illegal now, although since 2010 random drug screenings have brought to light the reality of drug use and the extent to which owners, riders and trainers will go to hide it. In 2008, a random skin test brought back positive results for Capsaicin on a few Olympic horses. Capsaicin is a cream that causes hypersensitivity in the legs to make horses jump higher due to discomfort. In most cases, skin tests are not administered, only blood tests are taken. Since 2010, these blood tests have been uncovering substances such as cocaine, tranquilizers and pain medication, all of which are violations. Despite the size of horses, they are extremely fragile animals, when put into an extremely rigorous program, injuries happen, some more severe than others. Ludger Beerbaum competing in the final round of the 2008 Olympics. Veterinarians advise time for these horses to heal, but with so much money on the line many are pushed too soon, which is where the drugs come into play. Giving a horse pain medication during an injury is not uncommon, but unfortunately it is also not uncommon for owners to deliver pain medication at a horse show to improve performance. Laura Krout of the United States equestrian team told the New York Times “ninety-nine percent of them are trying to give their horses the best possible care.” While this may be true, it does not dismiss the other one percent’s behavior. In the past, the laws stating what can and cannot be administered to horses have always seemed flexible; trainers have called them “confusing” and “unclear.” The problem was that the rules only stated “doping” of a horse, so there were ways around that. Ludger Beerbaum, a member of the German equestrian team, told the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine, “Over the years, I have become accustomed to exhausting all possibilities. In the past, my attitude has been, anything that is not detected is allowed.” Beerbaum was and is not the only rider to hold this mindset. For years riders, owners and trainers have been finding ways to bend the rules. Administering the drugs a few days before competition is one way to ensure that they won’t show up on a random drug test. Skin creams is another way and also using drugs that are unlisted, but have the same performance enhancing qualities, but can sometimes be far more dangerous. A more recent scandal appeared at a horse show in Devon, Pennsylvania in 2012. Humble, a nationally ranked pony in the United States awaited his morning routine before showing with his leaser later that afternoon. Instead of making it to the show ring, Humble collapsed in his barn’s aisle and died that morning. Three days before his death, the pony was scheduled for fifteen separate drug treatments including anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and muscle relaxants, all of which can be used as performance enhancing drugs. Well known and respected owner and trainer, Elizabeth Mandarino, made Humble’s last Humble in the Pony Hunter division at the Devon horse and pony show. injection approximately two hours before he was to step into the ring according to show records. Humble was a pony hunter; hunters are expected to be relaxed, smooth and obedient. Unlike a showjumper that you would see in the Olympics whom are trying to beat the clock, hunters do not have a time limit, they are only judged on how beautiful they can look going around the ring. This discipline is notorious for drug use because trainers need to ensure that their clients horses will not act up in the ring and risk their chances of winning. Many judges and officials have been pushing for a change in the hunter show ring so that there is no need for horses to be over drugged or drugged at all. Ms. Winkel, a horse show judge and chairwoman of the officials committee for the United States Hunter Jumper Association urged judges to "stop rewarding horses for robotic behavior" she also stated that "people are realizing it's O.K. if horses are a little fresh and a little happy. Why don't we take a little more time and train these horses properly and educate our clients and give them better horseman skills, other than to bring out a needle and syringe every time we have a horse show." While many judges and officials are pushing for this change, many people are stuck in their ways; it's hard to break such a long tradition. Though, these judges and officials are hoping to have well-known and respected riders and trainers help influence this change and end the era of performance enhancing drugs. Well respected professional trainer, Robin Greenwood believes that "as long as hunters are expected to go around in a quiet and relaxed manner, people will be finding ways around the rules to make that happen." The United States Equestrian Federation over the years has made the drug rules and regulations much more specific so that there are hardly any cracks for riders, trainers and owners to slip through, or so the officials thought. Instead, it showed to almost be the opposite. Many drugs stay in a horses system for a few days so to avoid this, trainers have started to use Magnesium, a safe mineral if administered properly in small doses, that also metabolizes Magnesium is injected and used as a calming drug for horses. quickly so it is undetected in a drug test. The problem is trainers are not veterinarians so often Magnesium is delivered in the wrong place and overdosed. Magnesium is used as a calming medication because it slows down the heart rate, but this causes horses to become lethargic and can kill them. Many professionals believe that the stricter drug regulations comes with harsher drugs and more reasons for trainers to use these harsher drugs. Robin Greenwood says "it's safer in my mind to show a horse on a tube of perfect prep or even a 1/4cc of acepromazine than on what people are pulling out of the medicine cabinets." There is no way to fully resolve the drug problem in the entire industry, but concerned riders, owners and trainers are encouraging the rules to change for the safety of the horse. The safety of the horse is what the drug rules and regulations are trying to protect, but unfortunately in this billion-dollar industry, people trying to be successful lose sight of the realities of what they are drugging their horses with. High doses of magnesium, cocaine and pain killers is not only illegal in the horse show industry, but also many professionals argue it is unethical and can kill the animal. The biggest problem now is finding a way to stop riders, trainers and owners from going to immeasurable lengths to put performance enhancing drugs in their horses system undetected. With respected professionals and judges changing the traditional style of the hunter horses, and not penalizing the horses for having some character and enjoying themselves a little, the industry is off to a great start to end the era of performance enhancing drug abuse.