Rider’s warning that ‘small mistakes can turn into something tragic’ after positive dope test

  • A showing rider whose pony tested positive for traces of phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone at the National Pony Society (NPS) summer championships has urged others to be “vigilant” and put “processes in place to ensure small mistakes don’t happen”.

    Further to the NPS council’s decision to undertake drug testing at the 2021 championship show, five separate animals were randomly selected for testing.

    A sample taken from Ashley Bird’s Welsh section D Gwerniago Gethin — a double Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and Royal International Horse Show winner in working hunter ranks — showed the presence of banned substances phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone.

    At a meeting of the NPS disciplinary panel on Monday 20 September, Ashley was suspended from membership of the NPS until 25 August 2022.

    Gwerniago Gethin, who won the not exceeding 143cm mountain and moorland working hunter HOYS qualifier, was disqualified from his placings there and the owner was required to pay the dope-testing fee of £1,446, reimbursement of prize money of £40 and the penalty fine of £1,000.

    Ashley, a full-time hairdresser, told H&H “Derek”, who usually qualifies for HOYS early in the season, was required to enter one of the last qualifiers at the NPS summer championship as he had missed his ticket on earlier attempts.

    “With this in mind, I cancelled my clients for the dates of the championships and worked late a few nights to compensate,” she said.

    “I have a yard of 24 ponies and I felt it unfair to expect my partner to do them all while I was at work, so I asked family members and friends to come and help him. I have a laminitic mare on the yard who is on bute to ease her symptoms, and I believe the feeds must have been accidentally switched, or there must have been residue in the bucket leading to cross contamination.

    “I am fully aware of the NPS rules regarding substances and the testing which goes on at the show, so I wouldn’t have made the four-hour drive to Malvern knowing that he had been fed bute and could be subject to testing.”

    Ashley said when Derek was pulled in for testing, her partner took him in while she went to get another pony ready for the next class.

    “I do wish I’d received the results earlier as promised and could have been told the levels of bute in his system, as I could have conferred with my own vet and worked out when exactly the cross-contamination had happened,” she said.

    “I take the situation very seriously and completely understand that doping rules should be strict. Horse welfare is a massive part of what I do. I’ve been showing for years and this has never happened before, but we now have processes in place on the yard so this won’t happen again.

    “I want to urge people to be aware that a small mistake can turn into something quite tragic.”

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