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Drugged lesson horses?

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  • Drugged lesson horses?

    I'm posting under an alter because I don't want to name names in this thread, and my location would probably end up doing so. I used to ride at a big lesson barn/show barn (mainly hunters) located in a city. Turnout is very limited.

    I left the lesson program when I found out that all the horses were Aced before riding, every time. (Found out from my trainer there, confirmed by another former trainer there.) I assume this includes for shows, but that I don't know for sure. I'm a big proponent of letting horses be horses, and the lack of turnout has always bothered me there--but I thought the horses were relatively happy and well-adjusted because they usually behaved well in lessons. I felt kind of dirty about the ribbons I won in shows there, because I assume they were on a drugged horse. I know that Ace is a lot more common in the hunter world than I ever realized, but I still find it disturbing. Is this common at other lesson barns out there, or is this a unique situation?
    Last edited by JustSayNo; Jul. 17, 2008, 03:24 PM.

  • #2
    at a barn i used to ride at some of the lesson horses would get drugged depending on the person riding and maybe if it was a really windy day just to provide some sort of safety which always bothered me but it was never EVERY time and only if it was a serious beginner and maybe not a good day......it always bothers me when horses need to be drugged or as my former trainer sayed "given a coctail" but its just the way some trainers are....and i think it stinks lol....especially in your situation where they are getting it for every ride!!!! wow! if the horse is a little "up," maybe lunge it or put someone more experienced on first to get the "funnies" out
    Dacharia = best mare in the world



    • #3
      Wow! Horses drugged for lessons! I would think that is a unique situation, but maybe I'm being naive.


      • #4
        Errrrr....lets say it is a pretty unique situation. Not a good one either. despite the challenges of a city location and no turn out, horses have adapted to this for centuries without "help" of this kind.

        Hunters are not "routinely" aced and it is easily turned up in a drug test, quite illegal to show on in rated competition. Unrated is a crap shoot and people do it-but with Ace, it is usually pretty obvious. Stuff wears off pretty quick too.

        You sure they are ALL aced every time, every day, every ride? That is kind of out there if they are giving multiple lessons daily.

        One thing if there is a cold front with high winds or some horse getting stupid-and I still would not reach for the needle as a first choice, though it is a choice and I can understand it. But every time day in and day out?

        Wow, they buy the stuff by the gallon?
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • #5
          I hope I know the barn you are talking about

          [edit] The barn that I rode at when I was younger did that, and yes, literally by the gallons to the point that we all had to wear spurs and use crops to get them moving. it was a horrible situation that you do not realize as a 10 year old, then you grow up and you do feel a little dirty from winning everything.

          the worst part was thinking that I was a good rider, then leaving the barn and buying an OTTB! that was a MAJOR wake up call!!!!! All I can say is thank god I left there when I did and actually LEARNED HOW to ride, not just sit on something that is so drugged up it can barely move.The barn I am talking about (I also wont name names) drugs the owners horses without telling them too. oye!!!!! I would FREAK OUT!

          But, that having been said, I have worked at a couple different barns that will give a horse 1 cc of ace or something before a lesson now and then if they had a devilish look in their eye or something. but nothing major, NOT frequently, and NEVER on someones personal horse without their knowledge.
          Last edited by Moderator 1; Jul. 21, 2008, 12:29 PM. Reason: barn specifics
          I WAS a proud member of the *I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday* clique..but now I am 30!!!!!!!!!!!
          My new blog about my Finger Lakes Finest:
          She Ain't No Small Potato!


          • #6
            Horses get used usually for one lesson per day, and usually have one or two days off, so yes, it's for every lesson. I remember riding horses there that were normally calm and quiet and suddenly had unexplained bucking fits or were incredibly wound up... so don't know if they didn't get their ace that day or if it just didn't work.
            Last edited by JustSayNo; Jul. 20, 2008, 09:03 PM.


            • #7
              Well, I know everyone wants to think it's not done anywhere- but I personally know of three professionals at different barns that think its normal. The one I have the most knowledge of tranqs lesson ponies before the majority of lessons, and before camp. While not all boarders horses are tranqed without their permission, there are certain boarders with new horses/ponies, or horses they aren't really skilled enough to handle yet, who get tranqed without their knowledge. I've never been at the other two to see it myself, but I have been told by employees that one does the same as the first, and the other only does lesson horses for beginners.

              I don't condone this at all, and would never do it myself, but I certainly listen to people who want to vent about it so I know where not to leave my horses.


              • #8
                Originally posted by JustSayNo View Post
                Horses get used usually for one lesson per day, and usually have one or two days off, so yes, it's for every lesson.
                Well, that is a light load for a schoolie. Most give at least 7 to 10 lessons a week, some as many as 20-especially the W/T set where they don't do much except plod around. Normal horse might be a little fresh in cooler weather with that kind of schedual-but that is why God gave us the lunge line as well as good use for barn rat kids that are more advanced hopping on.

                While I do understand there are days this, a cocktail, could be a choice (temp dropping 30f degrees in 4 hours behind high winds. Snow sliding off roof), especially with the novice rider, there are other ways then tranqing EVERY ride.

                More suitable horses comes to mind...I don't blame the turn out situation. Not one bit, many horses go all their lives with this and never need a tranq to behave.

                Sounds like too much dependance on liquid lungeline as a training technique.

                And they are really stupid for sharing, do they think this is a good thing?
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  I know of a barn in my state that used to ace their lesson horses. They may still do it, but I no longer have insider information.

                  Ugh!! Way to teach the new generation how to ride...dope em up so the geratric school pony doesn't go crazy! Shame, shame!!!!
                  Animals are not disposable!!!


                  • #10
                    The original post alone gave away the barn. Pretty easy guess.

                    To answer your question-- NO, drugging lesson horses is not the norm.

                    I bet you probably already know that.
                    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tenacity View Post
                      Wow! Horses drugged for lessons! I would think that is a unique situation, but maybe I'm being naive.

                      Are you kidding? In the litigious society that we live in - many places live in terror of kids/adults falling off horses and suing them despite all the legal releases. I've seen it at the larger lesson barns and while I have no idea if it's the "norm" - it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it was.


                      • #12
                        I have never really ridden at a "lesson" barn since I have owned horses my whole life, parents rode also..... BUT I do think it is definitely a common practice to "give a cocktail" to horses if the owner / rider can't ride well or if the horse is feared to be "fresh". My question may be naive but isn't it MORE dangerous to ride and possibly jump a drugged horse than to either have a groom lunge it or just make sure they are used in more lessons to keep the edge off. I would be a afraid to ride a drugged horse but I guess I haven't ever had TBs or "hot" horses.


                        • #13
                          If they are drugging school horses, then I woulld suggest the person find another barn to ride at. School horses should be calm and put up with most anything. Generally dead to the leg and partially lame ( but still able to do a lesson). If you got to drug them to calm them down, then this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.


                          • #14
                            I've not been around show barns that have done it, but I've been around foxhunting barns that routinely aced everything on 4 legs. They even found horses for some owners, got the poor saps to buy said horses (who were WAY out of their ability range), and then quietly aced them every time the owner came out to ride. I had no idea until I was asked to exercise one of these horses one day and had the most terrifying ride of my life - the darn horse was spinning around in circles and literally spinning INTO trees - and this was supposed to be a trail horse for a beginner!! She was pulling on the bit so hard I finally got to a place where I could get her run, so I thought she'd get it out of her system - after a few minutes I had to pull out the BIG GUNS to get her stopped, because she was dripping sweat and puffing so badly I thought for sure she was going to die under my 115-pound self. And all I did was stand in the stirrups and cluck a couple of times. She wasn't an OTTB, either!

                            I got back to the barn and they said, "Oh, we usually ace her for [owner], but we figured you could handle her." I'm lucky I was *able* to get back to the barn!!!!

                            I guess what I'm trying to say is... if it's a sleazy barn that routinely drugs the horses instead of training/exercising them, I'd rather have them aced than being their wild and crazy untrained/unexercised selves.

                            I'm not opposed to a little chemical aid now and then (when legal), but using it constantly as a crutch is just not cool.


                            • #15
                              I am naive!

                              I must my naive because I'm pretty shocked that this seems to be a fairly rampant thing! It makes me wonder about the first barn I rode at (thankfully, I don't ride there anymore) because their lesson horses were always very lazy, very difficult to get to do anything. Where I am now Ace or any tranqs are only for very specific circumstances, such as hooking a horse to a cart the first time, or a green horse's first away show (local level shows only!). The thinking there is let them have a good experience the first time and it sets them up to succeed in the future. I can't believe the idea behind drugging lesson horses every time, or on windy days or stuff like that... how are you supposed to learn how to really ride on a half comatose horse?


                              • #16
                                How can you compete with drugged horses? Don't you have routine or spot drug testing of all winners??

                                Never heard the likes and for sure its not the norm in Europe. Furthermore I absolutely don't see the point or why there would be any benefit at all for the Centre Owners.


                                • #17
                                  they don't test here

                                  they don't test in unrated shows around here. and I know some of the horses are drugged, one crazy appendix was so drugged, he almost couldn't get over the jumps, yes my former BO drugged horses who went in hunter classes.
                                  I first learned this when, w/o my permission, the BO tried to drug my wb before his first show here. He wouldn't let her, and I was told this by another boarder. When I asked the BO what she was doing, she said it was to calm him down. Now my WB eats his way over to a show, and eats hay at the show, and eats hay coming home. He' so laid back except when he is hitting on mares waiting outside the ring. Only thing he does is take fewer strides between jumps cause he has such a huge stride, but perfect bascule, never refuses, etc.
                                  so to "slow him down" they were going to ace him. no way. in addition to his not needing to be aced, he could have fallen and killed himself.
                                  but it is routine around where in local shows, horses aren't tested.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Thomas_1 View Post
                                    How can you compete with drugged horses? Don't you have routine or spot drug testing of all winners??

                                    Never heard the likes and for sure its not the norm in Europe. Furthermore I absolutely don't see the point or why there would be any benefit at all for the Centre Owners.
                                    In rated competitions, there is always the "threat" of random drug testing by the USEF-- which may or may not be winning horses. However in non-rated, local type shows there are no drug tests.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                                      While not all boarders horses are tranqed without their permission, there are certain boarders with new horses/ponies, or horses they aren't really skilled enough to handle yet, who get tranqed without their knowledge.
                                      Unethical and illegal.
                                      Probably a lawsuit waiting to happen on several fronts, as well.
                                      "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                      ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


                                      • #20
                                        Count me among the naive- I really don't think this practice is the norm, but then I've never been at a barn that can't give at least 4 hours of turnout daily.

                                        The only time I am aware of people giving a horse ace before riding is when coming off of an injury or layup. I would be afraid to jump a horse that has had ace, and certainly wouldn't want to ride it in the hunt field! I know of a situation where someone was riding a horse that was coming back from an injury, and as part of the conditioning the vet recommended trotting cavaletti. The horse tripped over the cavaletti and fell down, likely because he was too dopey with the Ace. I think these farms are asking for trouble, what poor horse management. I would think it would be really bad for the hroses kidneys in the long term.