USEF Town Halls Focus on Drugs and Improved Coaching

USEF Town Halls Focus on Drugs and Improved Coaching


Two petitioners are challenging the United States Equestrian Federation regarding drug and medication violations. While some members say they are concerned by USEF’s hearing process, others say they want stricter penalties for those caught doping their horses.

The days of horse trainers bypassing accountability by having their grooms sign as the responsible party on the entry blank are gone, according to USEF. Rule change GR 404 expands the range of responsible parties for drug and medication violations. The association has the discretion to charge and penalize financially, and by suspension, not just one trainer, but multiple trainers, owners, riders, grooms, and others responsible for the equine at the show. The rule change went into effect December 1, 2015.

“The doping of horses to enhance performance is abusive, and it has to stop,” said USEF President Chrystine Tauber.

The conversation took place during the Town Hall at the USEF Annual Meeting, on January 14, discussing drug accountability and medication violations. For the first time, USEF is offering drug and medications penalty guidelines to assist the Hearing Committee Panels in imposing penalties to make them more consistent and efficient. It was noted the Hearing Committee has discretion when deciding penalties and that the ranges provided are not mandatory, but are guidelines.

Rule violations have four categories and penalties recommended for a first and subsequent offenses.

Category I – Overages of NSAID’s and other quantitatively restricted medications such as Dexamethasone.

First offense – Censure and $750 – $1,000 fine.
Second offense – Censure and $1,500 – $2,500 fine.
Third offense – Suspension of 1 month and $3,000 fine.

Category II – Positives for Forbidden substances that have legitimate therapeutic value in the treatment of horses such as corticosteroids used for joint injections, sedatives, and local anesthetics used for laceration repairs, and those medications commonly used for treatment of colic, etc.

First offense – Suspension of 1 – 3 months and $1,000 – $3,000 fine.
Second offense – Suspension of 3 – 6 months and $3,000 – $6,000 fine.
Third offense – Suspension of 6 -12 months and $6,000 – $12,000 fine.

Category III – Forbidden Substances that are not indicated for use in horses but are FDA approved and regulated such as some of the opiates and antipsychotics drugs.

First offense – Suspension of 3 – 6 months and $3,000 – $6,000 fine.
Second offense – Suspension of 6 – 12 months and $6,000 – $12,000 fine.
Third offense – Suspension of 12 months or more and $12,000 or more fine.

Category IV – Forbidden substances that may be used to alter the performance of the horse or may be used to avoid detection, and that have not been FDA approved for use in horses. Some examples include, but are not limited to GABA and Phenibut.

First offense – Suspension of 6 – 12 months and $6,000 – $12,000 fine.
Second offense – Suspension of 12 – 24 months and $12,000 – $24,000 fine.
Third offense – Suspension of 24 months or more and $24,000 or more fine.

The penalty guidelines went into effect January 1, 2016. USEF has also put together a guide regarding Rule Enforcement and the Hearing Process.

Coaching came into focus on day two of USEF’s Town Hall Meeting Friday.

Yogi Breisner, Performance Manager and Lead for World Class Program Coach Development, says coaching is “a tremendous responsibility.” He attributes that responsibility to another living creature being involved in the process.

“You have to make sure there is no abuse of the horse through not knowing,” Breisner adds.

Breisner referenced the UK’s coach certificates, available in any industry, and the British Horse Society’s certification program. He says although different, the two programs worked well together. “There are benefits for having coaching as a recognized career,” Breisner says.

A professional coach himself in Great Britian Breisner works with Olympians in eventing. He says coaching is about selling the message and taking them on the journey.

Breisner says coaching certificates allow:

– recognition of coaching levels

– assess qualifications

– quality control

– disciplinary measures.

Carolyn Bland has been on an odyssey through the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Coaches Course. The USEF Vaulting High Performance Committee member and AVA VP of Education organized the first FEI level 1 Course for Vaulting Coaches in the United States.

Bland says a similar program brought to USEF that teaches coaches more about risk management, insurance, mentoring, age appropriate coaching techniques, and goal setting will help coaches.

DiAnn Langer, U.S. Show Jumping Young Rider Chef d’Equipe, echoed the recommendation saying she supports the idea of a National Coach Registry.

Langer said it is about transparency and credibility, suggesting new professionals should engage in internships before striking out as pros. At the entry level the goal would be to strive to go up the levels.

She also recommended an Elite Coaching Development program that starts at “the top” with the best coaches who are given recognition.

Dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper affiliates currently have their own certification programs. USEA’s President Diane Pitts said while she likes the National Coach Registry idea, she didn’t want to see eventing’s comprehensive certification uprooted. She was assured any program would be in addition to, not instead of, current certification methods used by affiliates.

The consensus among those in attendance was that this is another important tool to drive and improve the sport. How to get there will take time and more understanding, but Great Britian’s Breisner recommends looking outside our own world at other other sports to see their best practices.