Unlimited access >

Self-policing is not working

I am over all the horse abuse BS that is rampant in the horse world, but especially in the HJ world. I have contacted USEF and been blown off. I am over it. It is time that someone does a big expose on all this abuse.

  1. Many, many horses are shown quite lame and judges, officials, trainers, other participants turn a blind eye. Especially in the lower-level jumper and hunter classes, a large percentage of the horses are obviously lame or neurologic, and I almost never see them whistled out. In fact, if you have a half decent eye, you will see lame horses pin in flat classes and even in big medal finals etc. The excuses that the horse may be rein lame, or just stiff, or have a mechanical issue are basically bull. Most of them are obviously in pain, and signs such as pinned ears, ringing tails, an obvious head bop are there. As far as I am concerned, “serviceably sound” in the HJ world means the horse will still do the job and does not take into consideration whether or not the horse should even be asked to do this job. “A horse ready to move down” usually means it is too lame to do what we want now but let’s see if we can pawn him off on someone who doesn’t want to jump as high. People who could very easily afford to retire their lame horses, pass them down the line instead. Those who don’t are the exception, not the rule. People show horses in multiple over fence classes that are lame enough I would not ride them period. It happens al the time. This needs to stop.

  2. Drugging horses is “standard industry practice”. This has been the case for as long as I can remember in the hunter world, but it is only getting worse. Horses now practically live on dexamethasone to sedate them. This drug really lowers their immune system. I honestly believe that the outbreaks of EHV and Stomatitis and whatever else are partly due to the fact that these drugged horses have crap immune systems. How USEF turns a blind eye to this is ridiculous.

  3. One of the reasons the horses are drugged so much, besides the fact that judges reward horses that act like Stepford Wives, is because it is all about the show, show, show and money, money, money. Horsemanship is a dying art. Good riding is reserved for the very few, and the average competitor cannot ride a horse that is not lunged to death, drugged, or ridden most of the time by a pro (or all three). Many people treat the horses like vehicles. Many kids have a string of horses and a true connection to none. Horses are just a status symbol, a vehicle, or something to do.

You all remember the outcry about the Pentathlon? Imagine what the public would think about all the very privileged people parading around on lame drugged horses?


I am certain that at some time a lame, drugged horse was pinned in a class some place. However, as someone who was once involved in the H/J world --unless this is a very recent occurrence, you must be attending or watching different H/J shows than I am. Our horse was drug tested about every 3rd time we had him out --he always passed. I don’t know how horses are selected for drug tests, but we saw the drug testers out in force each day --we were extremely cautious about getting feed any place near drugs we kept in the barn (bute especially).

I never drugged a horse, none of my kids ever drugged a horse, our trainer(s) didn’t drug horses, --so “drugging as a standard industry practice” seems limited to you and your area.

We made no money showing, while my own horsemanship and riding ability were never spectacular, my kiddos did ride well enough to compete with the pros at the higher levels in both dressage and jumping. Our horses were never lunged to death, drugged, or ridden by a pro —we kept them at home, and hauled to shows ourselves. We took advice from trainers. Again, not sure where you are located that this is common, and maybe it is these days —but I still have one kid in the game -and again, she does not drug her horse, lunge it to death, or have it ridden by a pro. She does well.


QFP :wink:


So…what experience has OP had with the other disciplines that they can claim HJ is the worst and all in HJ are guilty?

Should we start the popcorn?


In fairness, the medal finals last year has some pretty gimpy horses in the top half. I winced pretty hard a few times.


Plenty. I am old. I have competed and trained in HJ, Eventing, Dressage and some breed shows. I competed HJ over 20 years ago when it was common practice for a horse show vet to give our hunters “something they can’t test for” at the friggen shows and then another bill from the trainer. I am not saying you don’t see lame horses competing in other disciplines but it is much less. Dressage horses for example are judged specifically on their gaits so lame is no good. Be honest how many times have you seen a trainer tell a student not to trot; go straight to the canter? Why are some divisions not jogged? The hunter crowd loves drugs as far as I can see. A few years ago it was Depo, now Dex and whatever else. Read through the offenses and those who get caught. They are way disproportionately HJ people. Even the top of the game is caught for drugs, cocaine McClain etc etc.


You my friend are a dying breed. Keeping your horses at home, competing in jumping and dressage (no hunters?) is not common at all any more. I have lived and competed on both coasts. I have been a pro and an amateur. Drugging is common place. A few years ago many of the hunters, even geldings got Depo, now Dex. We were drugging horses at hj shows over 20 years ago. If you don’t know this, you don’t really know the industry. As for people showing lame horses and lame horses winning, this is a reality. If you haven’t seen this, you don’t have an eye for lameness. I am old and have had horses for over 45 years. We have raised horses for that long. I have been around many industries from HJ, dressage, eventing , QH, welsh ponies and more. I have rehabbed numerous horses including those I rescued from the track. I know lame. The majority of the horses I watched in the low hunter and jumper rings at a recent A rated show were lame. Ignorance is not an excuse.


So what solutions are you proposing?


I can think of a lot of things.

USEF could require a judge (who is not in anyone’s pocket) to pass each horse as suitable for showing.

There could be a zero tolerance for any drug that can act as a sedative like Dex.

The punishment for getting caught drugging horses could be way more significant, like someone should not be allowed on a team that represents our country if they have been found guilty of drugging or abusing horses. The fines and bans for lower level players also need to be way higher.

People could have to qualify to ride at the level they are showing like in Europe. (All the wealthy people who think they can buy anything, and all the professionals who cater to them can suck it up).

There could be a pay to play fee that is used to provide retirement for horses that are lame.

There could be a lot of pressure given, shaming those who could afford to retire lame horses but instead either continue to show them or pass them off to someone else. This is such an accepted practice and should not be.

There could be a limit on how many shows or how often a horse can be shown. Showing for months at a time is cruel and asking for lame unhappy horses.

*I am not holding my breath that USEF will do any of these things. I have brought up my concerns and never gotten any response to my emails. They seem so worried about Safesport, the people’s welfare, and quite frankly very little about the horses’ welfare. Therefore, perhaps someone needs to blow the lid off this abusive industry. A documentary would be great or just someone who films lame horses and plasters them all over social media. If the general public gets a wind of all the celebs and rich people who abuse horses, it will take on a life of its own.


A judge can eliminate a horse for being unsound, however most judges are not vets and do not want to risk a lawsuit over the soundness of horse. As a steward, I have been called to the ring regarding the soundness of a horse and I will always ask the competition vet to accompany me as they are the one qualified to make that call. I know I can spot a lame horse at a hundred paces, but I do not have a license saying that I am qualified to do so and I’m not going to risk a lawsuit. We all know that people will sue over anything and the price tag of a horse may be on the line - if you don’t have a vet license, you don’t want to risk that.


I wonder if vets worry about that, too…


They have insurance for that. I don’t.


Of course! And if it appeared I was being critical, I was not. I remember years ago someone (it may have been Todd Minikus) badmouthing a vet in an article in Practical Horseman who said his horse was lame (maybe the a Sydney Olympics).

1 Like

And yet the Big Lick crowd just keep on going.

If an industry that actively sores horses just keeps on ticking, you think a doco about some fat, shiny horses with a minute hitch in the giddyup is going to outrage Joe Public?

I (and a few others) got beaten by a very obviously lame horse in Beginner Adult in all the english classes at a western show once. So lame even my non-horsey mum said something.


We may be a dying breed, but there are still plenty of us around.


nonsense. totally unworkable and not a rational way to think.

I will be damned if I chip in my hard earned money to help make sure Missy Gotrocks has a place to retire Poopsy.


You are correct. I meant a vet to pass the horses to show, like in an FEI jog. The horses could be given adequate warmup time so if they are stiff they can warm out of it and then have to do a trot circle each direction to be cleared to show.

Also, the judges should be protected from law suits for eliminating lame horses. This should be written into the USEF show rules and anyone who competes should have to wave the right to sue a judge for this. This is also an issue in dressage because if a judge were to whistle out the lame ones the judge would not get hired again.


This made me giggle.

This is what I did, not because my horse was lame (or drugged or any of those things) but because my horse’s trot was not even close to a hunter horse trot. He was what I called a 2 mover. We almost never did the hack, there was no reason.

So “don’t trot” does not mean lame.


I don’t know where you’re showing but we are at shows 2-3 times a month. I don’t see lame horses regularly. Drug use isn’t “rampant”. I do see drug testing. I do see a lot of “serviceably sound” animals that people spend a ton of money keeping that way.

I’d be all in for a limit on the number of classes a horse can do at a show. I’d be totally good with a flat policy that the top 3 get drugs tested every time.


It very often does mean lame, and horses that your trainer may tell your are bad movers are often in fact not sound.