Some farriers are finding the 3-day ban on the use of drugs and medications is becoming a more serious issue when working with high-level horses. This is particularly true of those that that need immediate hoof repairs to keep competing. And a big question is whether we’ll see a trickle-down effect at more shows that will impact shoers.

The reason behind the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) drug and medication rules is to protect horses from abuse and to help maintain a level playing field among owners, and riders and trainers.

Several farriers recently told the American Farriers Journal editors that they’ve seen new footcare issues come up due to the 72-hour drug ban. It’s more difficult to work on the feet of horses no longer taking drugs at shows. In fact, several farriers have indicated it’s almost impossible to work on some horses just before competition due to increased pain levels.

One farrier told us about a high-level jumping event that normally had 180 horses competing prior to the drug ban. But due to the new rules, this year’s numbers dwindled to about 80 horses.

Prescription Drug Concerns

While most drugs and medications are prohibited within 72 hours of competition, there are also strict limits on the amount of the drug or metabolites that can be in the blood or urine when tested at the time of competition. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been a major concern.

Performance-impact substances that are included in the more stringent California rules include stimulants, depressants, tranquilizers, anesthetics, local anesthetics, sedative analgesics, anabolic steroids, corticosteroids and soring agents.

Substances that are not regulated include vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, dewormers and most antibiotics, except for procaine penicillin, which is a local aesthetic that can remain in the horse’s system.

Under the more stringent California rules, horses sold at public sales also have to meet the state’s drug bans.

A number of racetracks have also banned many drugs and medications just prior to racing. Several tracks have gone so far as to initiate surveillance measures for big stakes races to ensure that drugs are not being used illegally, which has not been a popular move among trainers.

But there’s a good reason for the tighter medication rules as shown in a recent New York Racing Commission task force report that looked at the 2011-2012 winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack. Among 21 fatal breakdowns, they found half of these horses could have been saved with less liberal use of prescription drugs.

What Do You Think?

What’s s been your experience with the 72-hour drug ban? Has it impacted your business? Has it made it more difficult to deal with last-minute footwork on some injured horses? If you’re trimming and shoeing Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses or Standardbreds for racing, have you had some issues?

If the drug rule has impacted your trimming and shoeing work, please take a few minutes to give us your experiences and thoughts so we can share them with other farriers.