Lexington, Ky. — "The current use of medications to manage competition horses is often permissive and excessive," according to new clinical guidelines for non-racing performance horses released by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).
The guidelines were developed to promote medical practices AAEP believes place emphasis on the health, safety and welfare of performance horses.
"The judicious use of therapeutic techniques and medications is at the core of all successful veterinary care," explains Dr. William Moyer, AAEP president. "Just as the AAEP has previously examined the appropriate veterinary care of racehorses, it is important for us, as veterinarians, to equally consider the medical care of the athletes competing in numerous sport horse disciplines."
The guidelines stress that the highly competitive horse environment today is one that fails to appreciate the potential harm to a horse due to "excessive or frivolous" use of multiple medications and supplements for the sake of competitive success.
"This environment is propagated by owners, trainers and veterinarians," according to the guidelines. "Failure on the part of the primary-care veterinarian to evaluate the supplement and medication menu of each individual horse can lead to inadvertent overdoses and antagonistic effects between compounds."
The guidelines address the importance of obtaining a specific diagnosis before administering treatment and state that all medical treatment of performance horses should be based on a veterinary diagnosis, with appropriate time for an evaluation following treatment to ensure recovery before competition.
"The judicious use of therapeutic techniques and medications is at the core of successful veterinary intervention," AAEP states. "Ignoring the individual's needs while responding to the demands of the particular competition may lead to excessive treatment and failure to consider the best interests of the horse."
The guidelines also address the use of shockwave therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic therapy, and cold therapy. They also make recommendations regarding veterinary medical records, drug compounding and infectious disease control. The new clinical guidelines were developed by the AAEP Task Force on Medication in the Non-Racing Performance Horse. Dr. Nat White of Leesburg, Va., AAEP immediate past president, served as task force chair. Other members of the task force included Kent Allen, DVM; Jeff Berk, VMD; Jeff Blea, DVM; Doug Corey, DVM; Scott Palmer, VMD; Midge Leitch, VMD; Rick Mitchell, DVM; Stephen Schumacher, DVM; and Stuart Shoemaker, DVM.
"While the guidelines were written for veterinarians, we hope our recommendations will resonate with owners, trainers and organizations involved with competitions," White adds. "Everyone involved in the care of the horse must appreciate the potential harm that may come from the excessive use of multiple medications. Simply giving a horse time off from competition is often the best medical choice that can be made."
The full guidelines can be found at aaep.org.