A showing producer has been suspended for three months and ordered to pay a £500 fine and £2,000 in costs after a horse in his care tested positive for potassium bromide.
Light hunter Forever Faberge, produced by Peter Hodgkinson, was randomly selected for testing by a British Show Horse Association (BSHA) steward at Wales and West in August 2018. His blood sample indicated a “high level” of the controlled drug, an anti-convulsant which also has a sedative effect.
Potassium bromide was only added to the FEI equine prohibited substance list, on which BHSA bases its anti-doping rules, in January 2018 — making the case one of the first positives for the substance.
Mr Hodgkinson said he had been expecting the test results to be “completely negative” and had not heard of bromide before the finding. He believed the drug entered the horse’s system after he ate feed that had been left in the on-site stabling he had booked.
“My groom and I arrived in the dark at around 11pm the night before the show, we took the first four horses off the lorry and shoved them into the stables and then went back to get the other two,” he told H&H. “Unbeknown to us, the horse in question [Forever Faberge] was eating some feed that was already in the stable.”
He said he did not consider himself responsible for the positive but did accept that the horse was in his care and he “should have checked” the stabling.
“It has made me extra vigilant and I think everyone else needs to be vigilant from now on,” he said. “I hope this shows to people how easily it can happen.”
The BHSA tribunal report, published on 7 November, said there was no evidence Mr Hodgkinson had booked stabling at the venue and that his explanation demonstrated he “was guilty of a dereliction of his duty of care for the welfare of the horse”.
It said the blood sample, analysed by Carmichael Torrance Diagnostic Services on 10 September 2018, was positive for bromide “at a level greater than expected” which indicated administration of the drug “over a period of time”.
The BHSA consulted Professor Derek Knottenbelt as an independent expert, who “expressed the opinion that the [high] level of bromide ingested would probably not have been present in the food eaten by Forever Faberge in the stable at the showground.”
The tribunal concluded it was “satisfied” that “prior to its arrival at the showground, the bloodstream of the horse contained a high level of bromide which may or may not have been exacerbated by the presence of bromide if any in the food left in the stable which was eaten by the horse”.
Mr Hodgkinson said he was aware of tribunal’s decision but that he had “no other explanation” for how the drug had entered the horse’s system.
“I have had a lot of my own vet’s input and advice as well and the problem is every horse has potassium bromide in its body to function. The question is where is the testable line,” he said. “The only other possible explanation is that the horse was given something at the show ground behind my back.”
Nigel Hollings, chair of the BSHA, said the decision was an “important moment” in the sport.
“The association was not deterred from bringing this case, the first for a bromide positive, and it underlies our commitment to be at the forefront of equine anti-doping,” he said.
“I am hoping this will send out a signal to those who are using bromide for the show ring that we will now be looking for it in every sample we take.”
Mr Hollings added that the association was “disappointed” with the level of penalty that was imposed in this case but that the decision had been in the hands of the tribunal panel. He said the BHSA would now be “looking carefully at the sanctions and penalties that the independent disciplinary tribunal will be asked to work to in future cases”.
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