Study Evaluates Banned, Controlled Substances in Horse Feed

While tiny quantities of some substances were found in samples, researchers say it’s not necessarily cause for concern.
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Study Evaluates Banned, Controlled Substances in Horse Feed
Morphine, codeine, noscapine, papaverine, colchicine, and atropine all appeared in minute quantities in more than half of the 28 feed samples tested in the researchers’ recent study. | Photo: The Horse Staff
The Fédération Equestre Internationale’s (FEI) Clean Sport initiative is designed to do just what the name suggests: promote equestrian events in which horses and humans are free of banned or controlled substances. “The use of substances with the potential to affect equine performance, health, or welfare and/or with a high potential for misuse are contrary to the integrity of equestrian sport and the welfare of horses,” it states.

As part of its efforts to keep sports clean, the FEI uses regular anti-doping testing that can detect small quantities of prohibited and controlled substances, whether administered intentionally or not. Swiss researchers recently determined that at least some of those substances could be getting into horses’ bodies unintentionally via small quantities in commercial feeds, supplements, and other products.

Morphine, codeine, noscapine, papaverine, colchicine, and atropine all appeared in minute quantities in more than half of the 28 feed samples tested in the researchers’ recent study. However, this is not cause for alarm, they stressed. It’s just cause for awareness.

“We found doping-relevant substances in very small concentrations with a sensitive laboratory method (electrospray-ionisation high-pressure-liquid-chromatography mass spectrometry, or ESI-LC-MS/MS) in the feed samples,” said Conny Herholz, PD, DrMedVet, FTA, Dipl. ECEIM, ATA, of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest, and Food Sciences, in Zollikofen

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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