What is the effect of giving bute to a horse in competition?

That’s the question riders, vets, trainers and sporting officials from Europe and all over the world fought to understand in a two-day FEI conference in Switzerland this week.

The conference, held in Lausanne on Monday and Tuesday (16 and 17 August) was organised by the International Equestrian Federation following the furore last November when a hasty vote was taken to allow bute in competition.

The FEI later backtracked, and began a year-long consultation and education process, of which this conference — attended by H&H — was part.

But delegates were left none the wiser following two days of scientific presentations and debate around the topic, as a growing gap between America (where bute is allowed) and Europe (where it is not allowed).

Aachen director Frank Kemperman said yesterday: “This congress is not decisive, and must give direction”, urging that to allow non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in horse sport would be “a backward step”.

But US team vet Tim Ober countered that horses needing “a little help” should be allowed some bute.

The contentious subject of whether non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like bute should be permitted in competition will be put to the vote at the 2010 International Equestrian Federation (FEI) General Assembly.

• To read a full report from the conference, and behind-the-scenes debate, see next week’s issue of H&H (26 August).