At the end of December, the U.S. Equestrian Federation released its Hearing Committee rulings from September through December regarding riders and owners who were suspended or received fines or censures.
Trainer Lynn Jayne of Elgin, Ill., received a $4,000 fine for a positive drug test of a horse in her training, Confession, while he was being shown at the Showplace Spring Spectacular (Ill.) in June of 2014. Confession, owned by Caitlin Creel, tested positive for gabapentin. Gabapentin, on the USEF’s forbidden substance list, differs from gamma-aminobutyric acid; they are two separate compounds.
“I had a prescription [for gabapentin] from my veterinarian, who made his recommendations by following the guidelines of the USEF’s seven-day withdrawal,” said Jayne. “I followed my veterinarian’s prescription and the protocol the USEF set for withdrawal times, and I had a positive drug test.”
The Hearing Committee report states that due to the “unusual factual context” in Jayne’s case, no suspension would be held against her, but the $4,000 fine would stand.
Jayne said the panel members at her hearing admitted the prior USEF recommendation of discontinuing gabapentin seven days prior to showing was incorrect—the USEF now recommends discontinuing gabapentin 14 days prior to showing to ensure a negative test.
“Because of my case, the USEF has changed their guidelines,” Jayne said.
USEF’s legal department responded to questions regarding gabapentin, citing “excessive dosing” as the reason the seven-day withdrawal window was too short.
“Central to this case was the recommended withdraw time for gabapentin as stated in the Federation Drugs and Medications Guidelines. These guidelines are based on normal dosing levels,” the USEF’s emailed statement said. “And at the time of Ms. Jayne’s positive finding, the guidelines did not anticipate excessive dosing.”
Because it is a forbidden substance, the USEF doesn’t have a recommended dosage for gabapentin.
According to Jayne, despite the change of the withdrawal time window following her case, USEF rules did not allow the panel to clear her of all punishments. Jayne pointed out the Fédération Equestre Internationale rule, which allows a rider to be cleared of blame if they can prove “no negligence.” USEF does not have such a rule.
“What is wrong with the USEF’s hearing process? The hearing panel is told they don’t have the ability to find me no negligence. Shame on them.” Jayne said.
Trainer Jennifer Papiernik of Wellington, Fla., received a $3,000 fine and a four-month suspension for a positive drug test on a horse she trained, Palladium MF, while she was showing at the Equestrian Sport Productions Year End Awards show (Fla.) in December 2014.
Palladium MF, owned by Maggie Fullington, tested positive for guanabenz and 4-hydroxy guanabenz. Papiernik did not wish to speak to the media at the time the Chronicle reached out, but Fullington commented on the situation.
“I stand behind my trainer 100 percent; she did not give my mare anything, and there would be no reason to give my mare anything. She is very much a ‘no prep’ horse,” Fullington said.
According to Fullington, a veterinarian had prescribed guanabenz to a different horse in Papiernik’s care as that horse was recovering from an episode of founder.
Trainer Paul Butterworth of Wellington received a two-month suspension and a $3,000 fine for a positive drug test of a horse in his training, Whistler, while he was competing at the Old Salem Farm horse show (N.Y.) in May of 2015.
Whistler, owned by Louisburg Farm, tested positive for acepromazine and promazine sulfoxide. Butterworth said the positive test was the result of a feed mix-up at Old Salem.
“I had all my horses stabled there, and I had one horse who was rehabbing—she wasn’t showing—and she was running around the stall rearing, just going stir crazy,” Butterworth explained. “So I put her on ace pills until I could get her back in full work.
“Unfortunately, at the beginning of April I had a huge groom change up, and I brought two or three new grooms with me to New York,” Butterworth continued. “I knew it right away, right when I got the letter from USEF, I knew the groom must have dumped the wrong bucket into the wrong horse, and that’s what I told them at the hearing.”
Butterworth’s suspension will be served from April 1 to May 31 of this year.
Trainer Amanda Steege of Ocala, Fla., received a $1,000 fine and was censured for a positive drug test of a horse in her training, Capricette, while she was competing at the HITS On The Hudson horse show (N.Y.) in September of 2014.
Capricette, owned by Charlene Graham, tested positive for caffeine, a result that baffled Steege.
“I was totally freaked out when I got the letter because we did not knowingly give Capricette caffeine,” Steege said. “I am 40, and I have been involved in the horse business my whole life. My parents, Mitch and Kathy Steege, own and operate Red Acre Farm in Stow, Mass., and I have had my own business, Ashmeadow Farm, since 2000, and neither my parents nor myself have ever had a USEF drug violation.”
Steege began researching positive caffeine tests in horses after receiving the letter from USEF and said she discovered that the Fédération Equestre Internationale believes most positive caffeine tests in horses come from grain contamination. Capricette isn’t stabled with Steege full time; they only meet at shows.
“In the past, we had always fed Capricette the same grain that my other horses receive,” Steege said. “However, this particular week Charlene sent a bag of grain with the horse. She had recently switched the mare to this new feed.
“During this same week at Saugerties I had two other horses that were drug tested, and neither of them tested positive for caffeine, and they receive the same supplements as Capricette, but the only thing that was different was the grain,” Steege continued.
By the time Steege received the letter from USEF, the bag of grain Capricette had eaten at the show was gone and unavailable to be tested. Steege sent a letter of explanation to USEF and asked if they could test the B sample of Capricette’s urine. According to Steege, USEF told her there was not enough urine for a B sample, and the original penalty outlined in the letter would stand.
Steege then asked for USEF President Chrystine Tauber to review her case, and Tauber returned with the same $1,000 penalty the original letter outlined. Steege then had the option to request a hearing or pay the fine, and she chose to pay the fine.
“On the one hand, I wanted to go to a hearing because I did not knowingly give my horse anything that contained caffeine,” Steege said. “But on the other hand we did not have any kind of defense to provide at a hearing other than, ‘I don’t know,’ and with caffeine being a drug that is so readily available the possibilities for contamination seemed endless.
“Also we had already presented everything we had to say in our ‘letter of explanation’ that the Drugs and Medication Committee and the president went over,” Steege continued. “We did not have anything new to present that seemed like it would overturn the original penalties.”
Moving forward, Steege has emphasized to her staff the importance of feeding only designated feed and hay.
“I found this whole thing really stressful, and mostly it just has really scared me,” she said. “I try to be a responsible and professional horse trainer and part of this job is knowing the USEF drug and medication rules and following them. I feel like we did both of those things and still somehow something went wrong.
“I think it all would be easier for me to swallow if we had found that one of our supplements had been the cause,” Steege continued, “and at least then I would know how to change the situation and make sure this didn’t happen again.”
Update Jan. 11: The USEF updated the online Hearing Committee report on Jan. 8, including a penalty for trainer Andrew Bourns, who went in front of the committee Nov. 18, 2015.
Bourns, originally from Ireland and now based in Wellington, Fla., received a $4,000 fine and four-month suspension for “excessively whipping” a horse during the Winter Equestrian Festival Week 11 (Fla.) show held March 18-22, 2015. The horse, Tztargazer, is owned by Bourns Sport Horses.
Bourns’ suspension started Jan. 1 this year and continues until April 30. Though Bourns declined to comment on the specifics of what happened at the horse show, he did speak to the penalties and fines he incurred.
“My approach with the USEF was to be very up front and honest about what was going on, and I did not expect that big of a suspension and fine,” said Bourns. “I have a very pristine record with the USEF, and I understand that they have to uphold the rules, but I did not expect the suspension and fine to be so high.”
Bourns also commented on the current status of the horse in question, Tztargazer.
“That horse is going extremely well right now; he’s in great form, and as soon as the suspension is lifted I will get back to jumping him in some big classes,” he said.
See additional information about the hearing committee cases and administrative penalty rulings on the USEF website, or you can read about the two lawsuits that have been filed against the USEF.