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What Does FEI Show Safe Really Mean?

By: Dr. Julie Vargas, DVM

How many equine competitors know the rules and regulations surrounding the supplements they use? Finding products that are guaranteed regulation safe for top performance horses can be hard, even for the most seasoned horse owner. From herbal supplements to commonly used medicines, all regulation safe supplements are forbidden to have calming or an energizing effect on the horse. With this being said, however, there are some supplements with these effects that often times go unseen because of poor manufacturing regulations. And, because of these oversights, multiple horsemen and women have been banned from competition due to positive test results from the FEI.

Gray horse on course. Excel Pro Elite Camelina Oil horse supplement with omega 3, 6, and 9.
"Caio Bella" Conyers International Horse Park

Riders Banned in 2017

In 2017, two US riders tested positive for the banned substance ractopamine at a FEI show in Wellington, Florida. The positive tests were a result of the contamination of  “Soothing Pink”, a supplement manufactured by Cargill Inc. The contaminating substance ractopamine, is a muscle building agent that is commonly seen in pig feed and supplements. After a number of positive swabs in performance and racehorses over the years, Cargill took Soothing Pink off the market. 

 

Manufacturing Integrity in Supplements

Above all, safe products for competition horses come from companies with strong manufacturing integrity. However, finding companies with insight into their manufacturing process is difficult because of product outsourcing. As a result, larger companies are finding it more important to have visibility into their ingredients and production process. But can this really be achieved on a larger scale? Because mishaps can occur with large companies like Cargill, customers are cautious of supplement companies with a variety of products. While Soothing Pink was marketed as “show safe” by Cargill, riders were still held accountable for the contamination, leaving them at a loss.

FEI safe Excel Supplements
"Morton" Wills Park Equestrian Center

“All Excel Supplements products have been tested and confirmed to be regulation safe.”

Does all-natural or 100% herbal mean “show safe”?

Just because a supplement is 100% herbal and natural, does NOT mean it is show safe. The use of herbal or natural products to affect the performance of a horse or pony in a calming or an energizing manner is forbidden by FEI regulations. Because of this, popular calming herbal ingredients like Chamomile and  Lavender are banned in USEF and FEI competition. The FEI does not test or approve herbal or natural products, meaning it is the sole responsibility of the manufacturer to uphold regulation.

In addition, many substances might produce a “positive” that can come from traces of therapeutic medications or environmental origins. Previously, a positive of any magnitude was deemed an offense, but today there are approved thresholds for certain medications within the racing and FEI regulations.

Banned and controlled substances

Within the FEI list and within the new FEI Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR), there are two main categories of regulated substances:

  • Banned substances- Substances that are deemed by the FEI to have no legitimate use in equine medicine and/or have a high potential for abuse (e.g., human antidepressants, nervous system stimulants, etc.).  These simply should not be found in any horse at any level at any time.
  • Controlled Medication substances- A list of medication that is prohibited in competition but have therapeutic properties. This list is made up of all commonly used substances that have the potential to enhance performance such as anti-inflammatories. Substances on this list may also enhance performance depending on the timing and size of dose. 
 

Competition horses are required to compete with no banned or controlled medication substances in their systems unless there is approval by FEI regulations. The FEI prohibited substance list is available by visiting FEI DOPING RULES

FEI Safe White Horse
"Ciao Bella" Conyers International Horse Park

At the end of the day, the FEI message is clear “IF IN ANY DOUBT, DO NOT GIVE IT TO YOUR HORSE”

General Rules

Athletes and their support teams are strongly encouraged to work closely with veterinarians when administering substances to horses. Veterinarians are well versed in the rules and regulations of the FEI, USEF and more.

The FEI published a warning regarding the use of supplements (including herbal supplements) and products with unknown ingredients. In this warning, the FEI states that “… supplements, herbal remedies etc., have produced positive tests” from herbal/all-natural supplements. The Persons Responsible are “responsible for what the horse ingests and they are, therefore, responsible for any substance found in a sample provided by their horse”. It also states that ” A contaminated supplement will not excuse a positive doping test…” Above all, competitors are encouraged to research confusing supplement claims and make sure the ingredients are sourced from reputable companies only.

In other words, the FEI message is clear “IF IN ANY DOUBT, DO NOT GIVE IT TO YOUR HORSE”

For more information on safe supplement selection for FEI competition be sure to read: FEI Warning Regarding the Administration of Supplements to Horses Articles 10.4 of the Equine Anti-Doping Rules and the Equine Controlled Medication Rules at INSIDE FEI

 

Dedication to Safety 

At Excel Supplements, our team is always trying to improve your animals lives and the world around you. From recycled materials to company owned crops, Excel Is doing everything we can to make our mark in the animal health world.

“I am so happy that I have contributed to our studies in the purity of our product. Being a horse person myself, I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad. The ability to work for a company that is putting itself behind the cleanliness and safety of their products with routine testing, is extremely rewarding” – Maddie Webb, Business Development Manager

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About the Author

Dr. Julie Vargas dvm

Dr. Julie Vargas is a graduate of the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine.  She completed a hospital and an ambulatory internship at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY before joining a sport horse practice in Wellington, FL.  She completed her veterinary acupuncture certification at Chi Institute and her chiropractic/spinal manipulation certification at the Integrative Veterinary Medical Institute, both in Reddick, FL.  Dr. Vargas has a passion for equine sport horse medicine and strives to find the best outcome for her patients combining years of conventional veterinary medical practice with alternative, regenerative, and nutritional therapies.
 
Currently, Dr. Vargas heads up the Sport Horse Medicine and Rehabilitation divisions of Spy Coast Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. She is also on faculty at Lincoln Memorial University Veterinary School. 

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