AQHA ups drug testing fee for horse shows

December 8, 2009

Funding for a drug testing scheme set up by the American Quarter Horse Association will be boosted with an increase in the fees paid by horse owners at shows.

From January 1, 2010, the fee increases from $3 to $5 per horse per show.

The association has spent more than $1 million in testing fees alone at AQHA and world championship shows this year, not including administrative costs or expenditures for hearings or addressing positive tests. To date, these costs have been partly offset by the current $3 per horse drug testing fee, which this year totalled $875,000.

In the mid-90s the AQHA followed the lead of the United States Equestrian Federation and guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to establish therapeutic medication rules.

As a result, the AQHA dramatically increased its drug testing of horses at shows in 2006 with the goal of testing at more than 300 shows per year.

"Due to the importance we place on ensuring the welfare of the horse and the integrity of AQHA competition, the Association has been subsidising the drug testing programme to this point," said Gary Carpenter, AQHA executive director of breed integrity and animal welfare.

"Those more directly involved in show competition will now accept a larger share of the burden. This fee increase is necessary to ensure we have a sound testing programme and to develop a way to monitor animal welfare at AQHA events," he said.

During the March 2009 AQHA Convention, the AQHA show council voted to increase drug testing, in addition to developing a stewards programme to monitor humane welfare at AQHA shows. To finance these essential programmes, the council recommended a $5 fee per horse per show, excluding international exhibitors and those from Canada and California, who pay a $4 processing fee.

As competitors voice greater concerns about the health and welfare of the horse and the need for a level playing field in our events, the show council felt it necessary to implement these changes, Carpenter said.