The United States Equestrian Federation announced this week that Phenibut (β-phenyl gamma aminobutyric acid) is now a forbidden substance. The rule change is effective immediately.
The group states Phenibut is considered to be a derivative of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). The ingredient was found in a product called Focus Calm supplied by Uckele. The company says Focus Calm has been reformulated.
Phenibut is also available as a supplement in the U.S., but is not considered a pharmaceutical. There are no known scientific studies documenting the safety of Phenibut in horses, according to USEF. “The utilization of a Medication Report Form, pursuant to GR411, is not applicable since there are no current recognized medical uses for the substance.”
For international horses, the FEI added Phenibut to its list of prohibited drugs effective January 1, 2016.
USEF says it encourages its members to be aware of what they might be administering to their horses. “Calming supplements, intended to alter behavior, should be regarded with a high degree of scrutiny when fed to competition horses. It is important for members to understand that the names of substances included on ingredient lists may not always be easily associated with published forbidden substances.”
Beyond foreign substances, we contacted USEF regarding its position on the use of calming substances deemed by some as “legal” while horses are competing. It is an important question, since according to the association’s rules, any medication or supplement used to quiet a horse while it competes violates the spirit and the intent of the rules. USEF did not respond.
Court documents obtained by Rate My Horse PRO in the Colvin v USEF case state Inclusive, ridden by Tori Colvin, received on each show day a total of 9 tubes of paste to aid with the horse’s performance. Inclusive is given doses of lactanase, a muscle relaxer, and “significant doses” of the calming agent Perfect Prep, according to documents, to get the horse to the ring.
The horse’s trainer, Steven Rivetts, who is employed by Betsee Parker, told the hearing committee he kept Inclusive on the same show protocol that Scott Stewart used when the horse was at Rivers Edge Farm.
Perfect Products, which makes Perfect Prep, is an Official Sponsor of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA). We contacted Perfect Products CEO and Founder Jeff Morgenstern this week seeking the recommended paste dosing for a 1200 lb. horse. We also asked his thoughts regarding horses being given what some consider “significant doses” of Perfect Prep, although we did not receive a response from Morgenstern.
The Perfect Products’ website states their calming system offers the most reliable regimen for bringing a focused horse to the show ring and marks the tubes’ photos as “show safe”. The site also states Perfect Prep contains no prohibited substances.
USEF says it strongly cautions against the use of “so-called herbal and natural products” in the 2015 Guidelines for Drugs and Medications.
The federation says using such products may result in a positive drug test, contrary to the claims of those manufacturing and marketing the products. “Although the use of some of these products may not have resulted in positive drug tests in the past, this may change as the USEF Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory [sp] incorporates new methods into its battery of screening tests, a deliberate and ongoing process.”
The FDA does not regulate animal supplements.
Colvin’s mother, Brigid Colvin, is fighting her suspension through the court system after the federation found Inclusive, owned by Parker, “was administered GABA to affect its performance in the Classic Hunter Round at the 2014 USHJA International Hunter Derby Horse Show”.
Since the filing, the court ordered a temporary stay of the senior Colvin’s suspension until an oral hearing scheduled for September 17th. Additional court documents were filed Friday by USEF in an attempt to have Colvin’s petition dismissed.
Rivetts was also suspended by the federation for the GABA violation.