Therapeutic medications in competition equids

The AVMA condemns the administration of non-therapeutic or unprescribed medications to competition equids by anyone. The AVMA believes all therapeutic medications should be administered to competition equids by or under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. Health care decisions regarding individual equids should involve the veterinarian, the trainer, and the owner. Protecting an equid’s welfare should be the primary objective.

The essential elements of the veterinarian’s role in the care of an equid in competition are as follows:

  • The welfare of an equid must be placed above the demands of competition and monetary or social gain.
  • Practitioners should adhere to the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics and the ethical guidelines of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
  • Wherever possible, the principles of evidence-based medicine should be followed before proceeding with a treatment recommendation. Treatment recommendations should be based on a thorough knowledge of an equid's condition based on previous and current examinations, as well as appropriate diagnostic testing.
  • All medical procedures and treatments must be performed in the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
  • Detailed medical records should be completed for each examination, and all records should comply with veterinary medical board requirements in the state where the veterinarian practices.
  • An equid's history and medical records should be shared between the equid's primary veterinarian and the consulting veterinarian(s), trainer(s), and owner(s), as well as any other veterinarian the owner chooses, to assure continuity of care.

The essential elements of the veterinarians’ role in medication administration for an equid in competition are as follows:

  • Sanctioning bodies of equestrian competitions that have no policies on the use of medication should consult organizations that have published drug policies (AQHA, FEI, USEF).
  • The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has a 12-hour rule that prohibits injections prior to competition with certain well-defined exceptions. This rule should be adopted by other sanctioning bodies and promoted by the practitioner.
  • Bisphosphonates and other bone remodeling compounds should be restricted to those that are approved for use in equids and be administered as labeled by the manufacturer and in accordance with the rules governing the event.
  • Use of pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals with the purpose to “quiet” the competition equid is discouraged. Use of these medications and supplements violates the spirit of the competition and may pose risks to equids and equestrians.