Leading horse feed manufacturers have been invited to sign up to a new series of guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of feed-related dope-test failures.
Led by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), the move will enable trainers to distinguish which companies are taking necessary precautions to minimise the presence of naturally occurring prohibited substances in their feeds.
Since 2002, 45 racehorses in the UK and nine in Ireland have returned positive dope-tests linked to morphine in feed, leading to disqualification and the forfeiture of prize money.
The heightened incidence of the presence of morphine in horses’ blood or urine is believed to coincide with increased cultivation of poppies, especially the papiver somniferum variety grown for the pharmaceutical industry, in the UK.
Although reputable feed manufacturers scrupulously and routinely test raw materials for freedom from prohibited substances, morphine traces typically occur in small, discrete pockets that are virtually impossible to detect.
While no morphine-related disqualifications have occurred in FEI competitions to date, BETA is maintaining a watching brief over equestrian disciplines outside racing.
Following discussions with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), BETA - which represents more than 80 per cent of the UK’s feed, supplements and proprietary forage manufacturers - has written to trainers to update them on progress.
“Manufacturers that agree to the conditions of the new guidelines will be independently audited and all products manufactured under these guidelines will be clearly marked on the packaging,” said Claire Williams, executive director of BETA.
“Participating companies will also adopt standard terms and conditions relating to prohibited substances that will clearly state the limit of liability they are able to undertake.
“It’s important for trainers to realise that products manufactured under these guidelines will have a reduced risk of containing a prohibited substance, however that risk cannot be completely eliminated.”
Participating feed companies are considering establishing a fund to be managed by Weatherbys and used to compensate for lost prize money in the event of morphine-related disqualification.
Working with the BHA and National Trainers Federation (NTF), BETA is also to produce guidelines for trainers to help them avoid inadvertently feeding a prohibited substance or medication.