If you read through the most recent U.S. Equestrian Federation Hearing Committee rulings, a few familiar names may jump out at you. Some of the most successful trainers in the hunter/jumper industry, such as Andre Dignelli, Bibby Farmer Hill and Scott Stewart, made the list.
Dignelli, of Heritage Farm in Katonah, N.Y., was found in violation of improperly executing entry blanks. He agreed to a plea agreement, which the Hearing Committee accepted, incurring a $7,500 fine.
“We sent entries in that listed a trainer, and we had omitted my signing as coach,” said Dignelli, who pointed out this was the first time in 25 years he went before the Hearing Committee. “I accepted the plea. From this point forward, if there’s a place for it or not, my name or another head trainer at Heritage Farm will appear as coach on entry forms.”
The USEF Hearing Committee found both Hill and Patricia Jenkins in violation for exhibiting a horse after he had been administered Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, the active ingredient in Carolina Gold, in excess of normal physiological levels.
The USEF found Hill, a professional trainer at Don Stewart Stables of Reddick, Fla., in violation for training Hasbrouck Donovan’s Wagner after he’d been administered and/or contained GABA in excess of normal physiological levels during Holiday And Horses held in Wellington, Fla., Nov. 28-Dec. 2 of 2012. Wagner competed in the large junior hunter, 16-17, division and the USHJA International Hunter Derby.
Hill faces a five-month suspension starting Nov. 1, and she was fined $5,000. Donovan was required to pay the show $300 and return all prize money and prizes.
“I was shocked,” said Hill, who pointed out she’s been a professional for more than 40 years without a violation. “I know now and knew then that GABA is illegal and did not administer it to that horse. I don’t know how it happened or why. I did go to the hearing and gave my side. They said the test came back positive, and I was found in violation.”
The USEF found Jenkins, an amateur rider from Chuluota, Fla., in violation for exhibiting her own September after he’d been administered/or contained GABA in his body during Ocala Winter Finals, held in Ocala, Fla., March 6-11, 2012. Jenkins competed September in the pre-adult hunter division there.
Jenkins was suspended for five months, beginning Jan 1, 2014, and was fined $4,000. As the owner of September, she was also required to pay the show $300 and return all prize money and prizes.
“Patricia Jenkins vehemently denies using of Carolina Gold or any products containing GABA in her horse,” said attorney Bonnie Navin, who represented Jenkins along with Michael Romm. “She presented expert testimony, documentation and relevant information to demonstrate the testing process was not appropriate and further presented eight hours of testimony with experts and witnesses. Despite what she believed to be compelling information from top experts around the country and cross examination of USEF expert witnesses, the USEF Hearing Committee chose to disregard the information put forth and found her guilty.”
The USEF found Stewart, who runs Rivers Edge in Flemington, N.J., in violation for exhibiting Krista Weisman’s Reality during Week 7 of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., Feb. 20-24, after he’d been administered an excess amount of flunixin, aka Banamine. He was fined $2,500, and Weisman was ordered to pay $300 to WEF and return prize money and prizes.
Stewart explained that Reality had been administered a dose of Banamine paste by a Rivers Edge employee. He also noted that Reality has been treated for laminitic symptoms, which affected his metabolism.
“He was originally on Pergolide, which we withdrew him from when he showed,” said Brigid Colvin, who helps manage Rivers Edge horses at competitions. “He had another laminitic episode, and his veterinarian changed medications and put him on metformin, 8000 mg a day, which is a medication also given to humans for diabetes. We saw a big difference in him when he was on that—his metabolism was completely different.”
Colvin said that per USEF rules, they withdrew Reality from metformin before he showed.
Stewart incurred two other medication violations in 2011.
“We know when we’re going to the ring every day we’re getting drug tested,” said Stewart. “We’re tested regularly, probably 120 tests [during the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival], and we’ve had horses tested multiple times a day. This was an overage of a legal substance. We have a big barn with excellent staff, but there’s always a possibility for human error.”