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Self-policing is not working

Yeah so serviceably sound just means the horse is still willing to do the job. It does not mean that it is OK to ride him or ask him to jump courses or jump the height he can still navigate or whatever. Serviceably sound very often is just a catch all term that allows people to abuse horses with a clear conscious. Sure there are some arthritic or otherwise compromised horses that are well maintained and not asked to do more than is fair, but there are a hell of a lot of other lame ones that someone has deemed “serviceably sound”. Also, drug testing won’t do crap if a) the drugs are legal like Dex or b) drugs they don’t have a test for.


Again - do you show regularly? If so, where? Because we do. And I am 100% disagreeing with you.


I have not made blanket statements. I have seen the horses people tell me their horses “don’t move like a hunter” that are lame. I have seen the trainer tell the student not to trot because the horse is “stiff” (when it is quiet lame). I have heard the trainer tell the rider to post on the wrong diagonal so the horse doesn’t look as lame. I have first hand knowledge of many horses being shown and winning while lame. I knew someone who showed a horse all season with a sesamoid chip that could have been removed but wasn’t because she didn’t want to miss her last junior season. That horse was quite lame at the trot, was never eliminated and pinned frequently. I know someone who stepped her horses down from junior jumpers to children’s when he blew out both front suspensories. He was quiet lame on both fronts then and moved a lot worse than before. Was he serviceably sound because he could still win in the children’s? Hell no, he was lame.


It sounds like you need different friends to hang out with.

And you did make blanket statements. Lots of them.


So you show hunters and don’t use Dex as a sedative or think that your competition is? Or are you saying that you show regularly and don’t see a lot of people riding lame horses? Or are you claiming both. Yes, in CA, New England and FL I see the same thing.

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I never once said everyone, but it is a well known “secret” and fairly standard practice in the industry. Those of you who claim otherwise either don’t have a good eye for soundness and/or are in denial. The drug use is a real thing, denying it won’t make it disappear.


Big lick is not USEF. USEF should do way better.


But some of your dues go for SafeSport and for drug testing and who knows what else. We pay a ton of fees for stuff we may not want to support, but we have to pay it to show. Another fee to actually help horses would not scare me from showing in USEF events.


OP must not have any experience with western pleasure horses. Abuse occurs across all disciplines.


30 years ago Dex was unlimited. Horses would come into the barn with a med sheet declaring they showed on 20, 30, even once 50cc. It wasn’t a typo, we checked.
Then in the early 2000’s it was limited to 5cc.
Now it’s 2.5cc and has been so for a while.
Certainly progress in horse welfare, and highly doubtful that anyone now thinks they are getting much use out of it as a quieting agent.


TB aftercare is a completely different kettle of fish – and I support these efforts. Folks that buy horses that cost more than I paid for my HOUSE can certainly afford to appropriately step them down, retire them, or do the right thing and humanely euthanize if their horses can’t be comfortable as pasture puffs.

  1. goodness, where are you showing at that there are all these horribly injured horses?
    Also, did you ask the owners about the injuries? Because there’s a lot of things out there that will make a horse look ‘off’ but is painless and exercise is actually the best thing for them. Like upward fixation of the patella.

  2. I don’t deny a lot of people use dex. But IME dex is not a great drug for mellowing a horse out. There’s stuff out there that doesn’t test that does a better job. Dex is great when your horse has horrific seasonal allergies. I have 9 horses. Of those, 5 have BAD seasonal allergy symptoms. I personally don’t use dex because I worry about side effects, but let me tell you I’ve seriously considered it this year; the gnats have been horrible.

  3. now this has to be an over exaggeration. I’d say 95% of people at a horse show can warm up and show their own horse. Maybe they have a trainer on the ground. In that other 5% are going to be the ones with a horse that suddenly became a fire breathing dragon, and a few people who over-horsed themselves and need their trainer to ride first. I don’t think this is some massive issue.

I sat for a while watching the warm up ring for Devon. Guess who warmed up the horses? The riders. Across all disciplines. In this day and age, when it’s so easy to buy and sell horses, there’s really no reason to over-horse yourself. It’s one of the best things to come out of the internet and Facebook sales.


I occasionally use Dex – for my severely allergic horse that has been retired for 2.5 years.


That’s what it is supposed to be used for.


Yikes. That is a crazy dose. It can have a calming effect even in lower doses, especially if the horse is on it long term. It also can have bad side effects even with a lower dose. Like Depo, it shouldn’t be used to calm horses, but it is
. https://horsesport.com/magazine/behaviour/dangers-dexamethasone/amp/


I hate to disillusion you, but in an FEI jog it is the Ground Jury (judges) that decide whether or not the horses pass the jog. There is a vet present “for consultation”, but it is the judges who make the decision.


My serviceably sound, older horse is just like her rider: older, a bit stiff when we first start out, we warm up and move fine and jump fine. We do require a bit of anti inflammatory medication occasionally, but our doctors assure us we are fine to do our chosen exercise.

I don’t know what shows you watch / ride at but maybe you see only what your biased eyes want to? Abuse will always occur but the progress made in drug testing, veterinary care, accepted practice and policing since I began riding in the H/J world 30 years ago is amazing.


I gladly pay drug fees and support SSx10.

It is not my responsibility to support the retirement of all these horses. How many horses x 365 x number of years do you think collected money will support?

Lets keep our eyes on what is reasonable and fund that.


Every sport in the world has cheaters. Often at all levels, but especially at the top. Some get caught, some don’t. In equestrian sports because there is an animal involved in the equation the cheating is that much more objectionable but it still happens. I am sure it happens in every sporting equestrian discipline. Heck, many non competitive equestrians like fox hunters and trail riders give their animals a cocktail before they ride. I think the normalization of cheating, drugging etc should be discouraged but I feel like in general horse welfare in the US is improving. Now, that may ironically be because some people who are less knowledgeable about horses (think PETA types) are making more noise while the knowledgeable people are more quiet because of certain norms and cultural acceptance. I think education and grass roots efforts to promote good horsemanship and riding are helpful, but wherever there is lots of money, prestige, social status and privilege involved there will probably still continue to be problems despite the best efforts of any governing body.


OP. I think your post addresses some very legitimate, very real concerns here. But your method of delivery has alienated your main audience, and rightly gotten their back up.

My roots are in H/J. Some of my friends still ride in this sport. I admit on a lark last year I watched one of the finals and was surprised to watch several go that I thought were lame. I can’t say it is the norm as I don’t watch the sport heavily, but I can say there was at least one very publicized round last year where I was surprised the horse was not rung up. In a sport that costs five figures just to get into the venue for the week, that’s unacceptable.

As I have gotten older, my tolerance for “servicably sound” has gotten greater, not narrower. Horses are expensive and if every one with a tiny little bodily complaint was forced to retire some of us would have never learned how to ride. I’m sore all the time, you still see me working. There’s a balance to be made. I would be more apt to not raise an eye at the quiet up/downer lesson horse who has a hitch in his get-along, than I would be at the medals-winning leased show pony that has all manner of therapeutic amenities at its disposal and is leased out for six figures in a single season.

I think if you take a step back and rework your approach, you’ll find more bites. And much kinder responses. A long time ago I had a mentor who told me “I don’t want to hear you bitch about your problems. I want you to give me your solutions.” It’s something I’ve always thought of any time I’m about to kvetch an issue – instead of complaining, offer real, attainable solutions.