What Horse Exhibitors Need to Know About Medication Rules

By Dr. Robert Hunter, DVM

The California equine industry sponsored legislation in 1971 to prevent misuse of drugs and medications in equines (horses, mules and donkeys) in public shows and sales.  As show season approaches it is important for exhibitors to know the rules.

The California equine medication rule prohibits use of certain drugs or drug combinations, while accommodating specific legitimate therapeutic use of medications within specified parameters. Prohibited substances are drugs or medications that affect the performance or disposition of the horse, mask or interfere with laboratory testing for chemicals, or are metabolites or derivatives of a prohibited substance. It is acceptable for therapeutic administration of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to horses prior to and during registered horse shows and competitions if the dose or combined doses (not more than two) of NSAIDs do not exceed the maximum detectable regulatory limits in plasma.

Enforcement and monitoring for drug use is carried out by the Equine Medication Monitoring Program (EMMP) implemented by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The EMMP monitors horses in public shows, competitions and sales though random sample collection for chemical analysis.

Horse exhibitors and event managers can expect the following monitoring and enforcement activities to take place in conjunction with a California horse show or sale:

  1. Event Registration and Assessment of Fees; event managers must register their event 30 days before the event
  2. Random Sample Collection from Horses Entered in Registered Events
  3. Sample Chemical Analysis at the Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California – Davis.
  4. Investigation of Positive Samples and application of civil penalties for violations.

Horse exhibitors should use this form to declare legitimate drugs and should know the differences between standards set by California and USEF when traveling as noted in the chart below.