I received an email from the USEF, about a substance I’d never heard of, but is now apparently banned. Calming products aren’t very commonplace in eventing (face it, we like fire-breathing dragons on cross-country), but other equine sports use them more often.
Edited from the press release:
USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Program has recently been aware of the use of “Carolina Gold.” The product contains gama aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
While initially not considered a forbidden substance, the use of GABA as a “calming supplement” violates the spirit and intent of the Equine Drugs and Medications Rule. During recent research and administration trials involving “Carolina Gold,” many adverse reactions were documented. The nature of these reactions has prompted immediate action from the USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Program.
Effective immediately, “Carolina Gold” or any other product containing GABA is considered a forbidden substance under USEF rules. Since there are no recognized medical uses for this substance, the use of a Medication Report Form to report its administration is not applicable.
Dr. Alex Emerson, of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, has an interesting perspective on the product and the USEF decision. As a vet specializing in sport horses (and hunter jumpers in particular) he approves of the ban. Apparently Carolina Gold can have some dangerous unintended side effects, and while it could “help keep horses off the lunge line,” it does not seem to be in the horse’s best interest. Dr. Emerson asserts that perhaps changing the expectations of show hunters would be better, and move away from the “dead” look that wins so many ribbons. Read more here.