Chocolate warning after peanut M&Ms cause horse’s positive drug test

  • RIDERS have been urged to be aware of the risks of contamination from all possible sources, after a horse who ate peanut M&Ms lost national titles.

    US-based Rylee Morgan and I’m A Lopin Sensation lost $11,000 (£9,140) in winnings from the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) World Show in July 2022. The pair had won the three-year-old maiden hunter under saddle and the open stakes championship classes, then the horse tested positive for trace amounts of caffeine.

    “My whole world has done a 180,” Rylee told H&H. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

    Rylee said “Simon” was dope-tested at the show as routine, and she thought nothing of it, as she said she would never give a horse a banned substance.

    “About five weeks later, I had an email to say he’d tested positive,” she said. “My whole stomach just dropped. My first thought was that someone had gone into his stall and given him something.

    “I contacted my vets and they said ‘Oh, that’s chocolate’. It’s not like it was part of his feeding routine but I’ve got a real sweet tooth and that’s my nervous habit. And when I had a handful of M&Ms, so did he. I would never have given them to him if I’d known.”

    Rylee took legal advice and secured vets’ testimonies – “one said the amounts were the equivalent of a drop of water in a swimming pool” – but the decision to disqualify her and Simon stands.

    “They said they have no tolerance for drugs, which I understand and respect, but it’s the spirit of the law rather than the word,” Rylee said. “The whole time we were fighting this, we were so upset, that something so trivial could turn your world round. I’d like to think I can help educate others but also that there could be some clarification. Not necessarily a rule change, and if something affects performance I agree there should be major trouble, but something so miniscule is hard to grasp.”

    Rylee said she will return to the show this year to prove that her “once in a lifetime horse” is “amazing with or without M&Ms”.

    Ian Beamish, a member of the British Equine Veterinary Association equestrian sport and racing committee, told H&H that as horse sports are under more scrutiny than ever, doping controls are “an essential part of our duty of care” to horses.

    “However as we are able to test for more and more substances it can so often be something seemingly innocuous that catches us off guard,” he said. “Caffeine in particular is a potent stimulant that can be found in high concentrations not only in energy drinks but also in chocolate, plants and even in decaffeinated drinks.”

    APHA executive director Billy Smith told H&H the organisation is committed to “due process for every member accused of violating APHA rules”.

    “Caffeine is a forbidden substance regardless of how it is ingested,” he said. “Every member accused of violating APHA rules has the right to go through our disciplinary process and if they disagree with the findings, they have the right to appeal. In this case, this member did not take advantage of her right to appeal.”

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