When is it okay to drug a horse, in my humble opinion?
1. When the vet, dentist, or farrier needs to in order to complete her job.
I'm all about this, and I don't think most people would argue, although I've heard vets tell stories of people who wouldn't let their horses be drugged and then someone ended up getting kicked in the head or whatever. When Red had colitis last fall and needed to be tubed, it just wouldn't have happened without dorm. If you need to do ultrasound or radiographs, you're probably going to have to knock the horse out a little (though I did participate in a pre-purchase for a client on a horse who stood perfectly still through the entire radiograph session and was such a perfect gentleman that the girl whispered to me that she no longer cared what the rads said--they were perfect, she bought the fabulous horse, and they're still living happily ever after).
|Sleepy time for teeth day|
2. If you've got to get them somewhere that isn't a horse show, like a new barn or the vet's clinic (but not for a PPE because that'll fuck with your blood draw) or whatever, and they need a little Ace to get on the trailer.
BUT THEN THE HORSE WON'T LEARN TO GET ON THE TRAILERRRRRR JESS!
Hey, look. I get that we're all perfectly principled horse people around here who practice every single thing we preach. In my world, horses need to get on the horse trailer when they're told. Red self-loads, Mo now loads nicely. I take the time to work on it. But sometimes the time isn't there, or the horse is frantic for an unusual reason. Plus it's not always in your best interest to let the situation spin out of control. I spent three and a half hours trying to load a mare for a client. Mare was beside herself, client was beside herself, I really needed a drink. We finally called the vet, who showed up with xylazine, and the damn horse got on the rig and it was fine. Wish we'd done that an hour or so in because I hate how much stress that put on the mare. What if she'd hurt herself?
3. Stall rest, if the horse needs it.
After Lex's stifle surgery, I put her on oral reserpine. Saved her life, because without it she'd buck and kick the walls, which is not what a horse recovering from stifle surgery should do. She missed a dose one night and the next day kicked my arm and broke it. Back on the reserpine, back to an easier time for her. I wouldn't jump right to that for any horse, and I'd DEFINITELY hesitate to have oral reserpine in a barn where any horses were doing recognized showing in any discipline because yikes, cross contamination. But I think it can be okay sometimes.
|This poor mare hated stall rest|
4. Turnout after stall rest.
Sometimes they need some Ace to settle back in, even if it wears off by the time you've led them to the paddock, like it seems to do with most thoroughbreds. It's fine. Whether you'd do this or how much you'd give would really depend on the horse, but man does it ever make me feel better knowing it's there. This could also apply to the deep midwinter when the horses have been in for two days and the paddocks are safe for turnout but getting five psychotic horses out to the paddocks without them killing me or themselves is nearly impossible. A little ace for them, a little whiskey for me, and we'll all live.
I think that's about all I can come up with on when it's okay to drug a horse. Some professionals I respect would say that it's also fine to give the horse a little Ace for various non-competitive riding situations (fox hunting--Pretty Famous Dude who lives here was telling me at Middleburg HT that he hunted for 40 years and never one SINGLE time hunted a horse without Ace, and in fact the huntsman would pull a needle out of his pocket and stick the horse again mid-hunt; first ride back after time off; etc.). I don't like riding horses on Ace, I don't feel safe. I don't really know what goes on in a horse's head when she's drugged. So while I'll do it when it's in the horse's best interest, like the situations above, I don't do it when it's in mine. Then again, I can stick a lot of stupid crap horses pull and falling off isn't the end of the world anyway.
Which brings me to when I think it's just not okay to drug a horse and I don't care who you are:
Not all professionals agree with me on this one. Some are happy to give a hot horse a little Ace to go to an unrecognized event or unrated show because there aren't drug tests there and "everyone else is doing it" and "it'll help him have a positive experience." All of those things may be true, although I'm not so sure about the last one. I'm not convinced Ace is a pleasant experience. Maybe it is! But I don't know. And going back to how unsafe I feel riding a drugged horse, I just don't want to do that.
Plus it's against the rules. And I don't like cheating.
At recognized/rated shows, of course, there are random drug screens. One of M's horses was randomly selected this summer at a recognized event, which was fine by us because our horses are squeaky clean. I can't imagine how crappy I would have felt if the horse had had something in his system.
|Not drugged. Just lazy.|
As I said in my comment on Gingham's post, what it comes down to for me is that:
1. If you care about the sport enough to spend your life and/or money in it, you should care about the rules. The rules say don't drug.
2. A real horsewoman would never hurt her horse to win. Ever. Ever. Ever.
3. I still don't get why everyone needs a warmblood because no one can ride a thoroughbred--if warmbloods are so lovely and amateur-friendly, why the Carolina Gold and Perfect Prep and endless lunging? Someone explain this to me please.
I think it's likely that Inclusive was getting the same drugs as everyone else in the barn. It'll be interesting to see what happens as the investigation goes on. But I'm not gonna assume she didn't have anything to do with it ("innocent until proven guilty, Jess?" Eh. Not so much here).
So there it is, my not controversial stance on drugging. Hunters need to change the judging standards somehow, but that's their world and not mine. I like that the quarter horse people revoke judging licenses for people who've been caught drugging, and I think that would go a long LONG way, because judging is incredibly important to the politics of hunters, and the politics of hunters is where the money is made.
Everyone says they don't drug. But clearly people do. I wish they wouldn't, is all I'm saying.