Tranquilizer use at "local" shows

Honest question–because there is formal drug testing at A and AA shows I feel like many people are discouraged from the casual use of easy tranquilizers such as Ace. However, since there is no such testing on the local show circuits I feel like some participants view this as license to use whatever calming agents they need to increase their competitive edge or improve the confidence of a timid adult ammy or child rider. In my view this still constitutes cheating, represents poor horsemanship and sets a bad precedent. How widespread is this practice? Do people think it’s ok to prep with some Ace on the local level? Genuinely curious as to what the consensus is.

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I know Ace is used at least by handful of trainers at some of the local shows here. Not sure on how many horses or if for every show or even every day of the shows but I’ve worked for trainers that have used it.

Personal view is that I don’t mind when it’s used on the beginner ponies (horses) that are carrying their riders around their first show, or otherwise used with the intent to create a safer ride (vs used with the intent to create a winning ride). But intent is hard to prove and I don’t compete in hunters currently, but even if I did, while I don’t think it is “fair”, I wouldn’t be upset as I don’t think a bit of ace is what makes the difference in the ribbons at the local level when barns are bringing their A horses in.


As an FYI for anyone reading thus thread, all shows with a few narrow exceptions can be tested in California by the CDFA.


No, they do not. Acepromazine will stay at a testable threshold for over a week, too, so you would be ill advised to prep with it


If you are entering a show that runs under USEF rules, and/or prohibits it (vast majorityof h/j shows, events, dressage shows, and breed shows), you are cheating full stop. You can justify it to yourself however you like.


Yes, but so many products are marketed as “will not test”.
And anything used with the intention of being a chemical enhancement to performance is illegal, whether it tests or not.

So you can see how the lazy ethicist would claim to not quite know that using Ace at a unrated show is somehow not cheating.

FYI: A very old pro** recently taught me how she uses Ace at outings like local shows (or really, she would have been happy with any “Lower Manhattan-style crowd” for the horse). I have seen the benefit of having a horse encounter a mind-blowing level of chaos with a chemically-induced ability to say “Meh… maybe I won’t bother to get unglued about that.”

**I came of age as a poor kid in the 1980s. I didn’t hang out with people sophisticated enough to drug horses; Ace was illegal by the time I was around. This pro, however, came of age in the late 1960s and was in charge of such things in the 1970s, when this was done. So she honest-to-God did know how to use Ace in a way that was intelligent.


I have absolutely no problem with the use of Ace in the beginner ring (lead line, W-T, crossrails) at local shows. To me, it’s a safety issue. In a perfect world, the horses and ponies shown by beginners would be saintly, safe, and bomb-proof, but we all know that just isn’t happening in real life.

I would much rather see a trainer use a little Ace to take the edge off a beginner W-T pony than see the rider fall off in the show ring because her pony gets a bad case of show ring nerves.


Until my dying day I will argue a trace amount of ace or dorm or sedivet is better for the horses/ponies than spending God knows how long on a lunge line, typically in terrible footing. I’d much rather see a slightly spooky, playful, whatever the case is, have .1 dorm in its system to cart Sally Sue around the children’s ponies than seeing it lunge for 20+ minutes at a local show (usually cross cantering, and is already sore/in need of maintenance)

Yes I understand the legal aspect, and for this reason I do not partake, but I can still see the benefit of it.

Grabs shield I would even be willing to argue this for A/AA shows in favor of legalizing it. Stop breaking horses on the lunge line.

IMO there is no difference in safety in a horse that has been lunged/over prepped physically to death vs one that has been chemically prepped. One is just saving their legs.

It would also give a lot of animals a chance at happier and longer careers…


I show mostly locally. I seem to, through circumstance, be continually bringing up/showing young green horses. I have never drugged them to show, or come to the show grounds for that matter. I have spent A LOT of time dragging them to shows, ship in lessons, trail rides etc to get them acclimated to different environments. I have also longed some of them at a show early on a brisk morning for 5-10 minutes to get them focused and working. So far I am pleased
with how they have all come along with this approach. I think time spent in acclimating or appropriate non chemical prep (a hack, jump school, hand walks and grazing, light longe for attention) can do wonders for most horses.


I guess the only reasons it bothers me is that 1) if the person sells the horse (or their training business) based on show performance then it is misleading, and 2) It can also make riders/students overestimate their ability, underestimate their horse.

On the other hand, some local shows can be chaotic, and you often don’t have time to school the rings…I just want those little shows to be SAFE. Lesson horses in particular, that are used to their same only routine at home might be more stressed than you expect at the occasional show.


The one time I rode a horse with Ace on board as part of rehabbing an injury he didn’t feel quiet, just unsure of where his feet were and a little hesitant for that reason. That seems like the OPPOSITE of safe?!


Not mad at it. I certainly rode plenty with a little ace on deck in my younger years for all sorts of reasons.

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I’m pretty surprised there are people out there who are OK with it, although I hear the safety concerns behind it.

At the end of the day I think it comes down to this. It is not legal, therefore you should not compete on it. I’m reading sound rationale on the reasoning behind it, but that doesn’t justify use of an illegal substance, IMO.


Interesting to me all the thoughts on drugging for safety. Inherently horses are large, powerful, unpredictable animals. And so it is really not that safe to ride or be around them. This is where appropriate animals for the rider, rider education or readiness to show, the understanding of risk, etc come into play. By adding chemical prep to a horses physiology we are attempting to change their very nature to make them “safe”. To me, one would be better off in a different sport or using a different animal than change the nature of an animal in a performance situation in the name of safety.


Drugging and excessive longeing are not your only options. If you cannot show safely with integrity, don’t show.


Honestly a little surprised so many people view “drugged” as “safer.” If a pony needs to be drugged to be safe for a kid in a walk-trot class, I kind of think that maybe kid and pony aren’t read to show.

Hopefully not too much of a tangent, but how much of this concern about beginner kids on ponies is in the warmup ring, versus the actual trips in the ring? At local hunter-jumper shows in the mini/short stirrup/beginner rings, the main safety hazards I’ve seen (I don’t mean a gentle tumble, but pearl-clutching crashes) are in the warmup. Maybe limit the number of people in the ring during warmup time, and have only half a large class canter in flat classes instead?


Jumping off from your point - in showing, it seems that there can be a place sometimes where following the rules and horse welfare take one in two different directions. Of course, one response to that is not to show when you face that conflict.

But I do think that this discussion demonstrates that there is a place for small local shows NOT held according to USEF rules, where young horses can learn how to horse show with some chemical assistance to improve their chances of a good initial experience. Which will hopefully set them up for a long and happy career.

I would never advocate for breaking the rules - if that is your only choice, go home. But I will advocate for different rules for different situations.


I offer no judgment as to whether Mr. Oare’s wife Betty shares his opinion in this matter.

Well said.

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Those local “round and round” hunt seat shows used to be hazardous - from multiple loose horses to the out of control horses in the warm up, to the cavalry charge group “canters”.

Personally, I dont think it is generally ethical to use Ace to compete. Especially if you are entering pleasure classes or others in which the horse is mainly judged. Unfair to those working thrugh issues without chemicals.

The only exception I would make is for “academy” equitation classes. Several barns used to run schooling shows and bring lesson horses to each other’s shows. Here I could see a judicious use of Ace so more lesson kids had a safe mount.