Effective immediately, the U.S. Equestrian Federation has banned the use of “Carolina Gold” or any other product containing gamma aminobutyric acid. The drug, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, is thought to calm horses but currently has no scientific data to support the claim.
“Anecdotally, it works,” said Dr. Stephen Schumacher, DVM, chief administrator of the USEF Drugs and Medication Program. “But there’s no science behind it. Some are concerned that it’s offering an unfair competitive advantage, but [the USEF] is most concerned about the welfare issues. We have seen first-hand through the administration of this drug in our research the shaking [of horses’ bodies after injection].”
Other side effects, including extremely low head carriage, have been recorded.
While not initially considered a forbidden substance, the USEF determined the use of GABA as a calming supplement was violating the spirit and intent of the Equine Drugs And Medications Rule following recent research and administration trials.
“The use of GABA is not new. GABA has been around for quite a while, but ‘Carolina Gold’ as a name is something we’ve only been hearing about for the past year or so,” said Schumacher.
Detection of GABA is being pursued by the USEF Equine Drugs and Medication program and will be implemented without delay or notice, and all positive findings will be forwarded to the USEF Hearing Committee. Trainers and veterinarians involved in the use or sale of the drug may be subject to fines or suspension.