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For Equine Vets Everywhere

Topical treatments in competition horses (including racehorses)

As for all medications in equestrian sport, doping violations can lead to sanctions being placed on the horse, the rider or trainer. It is rare that a topical treatment will make the difference between winning and losing but it can only too easily make the difference between winning and doping violations.

To minimise the risk of a positive test:

  • Assess all ingredients prior to use in the same way as for systemically administered medicines, eg FEI prohibited substances database, BHA orders and rules
  • Avoid use of herbal products without appropriate detailed analysis 
  • Only use products from reputable sources with trusted ingredients (any in-house preparations ought to be considered very carefully)
  • Apply with disposable gloves and then discard
  • Recommend care with storage and accessibility of all medicines to avoid mistaken use
  • Ensure accurate labelling of all products and discard if labels are unreadable
  • Assume all topical treatments may be detected systemically and remember systemic absorption may occur via ingestion alongside percutaneous absorption.
  • Persistence of medication is possible for significantly longer than the time from last application if tack/equipment become contaminated (medication residues on exercise boots a potential problem)
  • Risk of cross contamination through tack/equipment and handlers is high
  • Racing has specific regulations following ‘Ringworm’ treatment, with certification required for ‘Non–contagiousness’ by the attending veterinary surgeon. Link to a BHA certificate
  • Some non-medicinal topical products are permitted on day of competition/racing (e.g. hoof oils/shampoo/fly repellents/lubricants) but check ingredients and if in any doubt avoid use.