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New British Showjumping (BS) rules that ban painkillers like phenylbutazone (bute) in national competition from 1 April have not been publicised to members, say riders.

BS is currently the only governing body of an Olympic discipline that allows horses to compete on bute at national level.

But the organisation will also be the first of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) member bodies to adopt international horsesport’s new anti-doping and controlled medication system.

But members claim to be in the dark about the rule, with the first warning of it appearing in an article posted on the BS website less than a month before the change comes in.

South Wales-based producer Polly Parker told H&H: “I have been a member of BSsince the 1960s and I cannot remember a time when non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like bute, were not allowed nationally competitions.

“I am sure I am not the only person to be unaware of the rule. The story explaining the changes has already gone off the front page of the website and how many riders check the website anyway?”

Rider Alex Barr, who is based near Glasgow, said he had not heard about the rule, but has a bute ban on his yard already.

“We have a mix of horses jumping at national and international level on the yard so we try not to use bute at all. It’s much easier for the stable staff to have one standard to work to,” he said.

And rider Stuart Harvey from Surrey said: “I was not aware of the rule. Bute is something yards use all the time — I think BS should make these rules very clear.”

BS chief executive Iain Graham explained that it was leading the way in anti-doping measures because its rulebook runs from April to March and would not comply with the
1 January 2012 deadline if it waited until later in the year.

British Eventing (BE) and British Dressage (BD) rulebooks are issued each January.

He said riders would be told of the change in the BS magazine, which is published this week, and all riders would be emailed or text-messaged by their regional rep asking them to check the BS website for information.

“The big change is over bute, but we will ensure all riders are aware of the rule and will be rolling out education on the subject this summer, wherever riders are brought together,”
he said.

Random drug tests will continue at national competitions, but will be carried out by FEI vets from next month.

Once BE and BD have also signed up to the rules they will be common across all British equestrian disciplines.

A BEF spokesman said: “The new system will see an increasing number of anti-doping tests across disciplines and affiliated members should expect their horse to be tested — whether they are competing at grass-roots or national championship level.

“It is hoped that the creation of standardised national guidelines will make things clearer for riders.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (17 March, 2011)