The United States Equestrian Federation has an equine drugs and medications program, the goal of which is to protect the welfare of equine athletes and ensure that the competition is fair. To achieve this goal, they monitor new products and product claims as sometimes manufacturers of new products claim to have effects on the performance of competitive horses. The USEF recently looked at a product called Carolina Gold; one of its principal ingredients is a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and although it was not a forbidden substance, the USEF decided use of GABA as a calming supplement violates the spirit and intent of the Equine Drugs and Medications Rule. The USEF reports that during recent research and administration trials involving Carolina Gold, many adverse reactions were documented. Because of these adverse reactions, in February, 2012, the USEF immediately classified Carolina Gold and any other substance containing GABA as forbidden substances under USEF rules. The USEF said that since there are no recognized medical uses for GABA, using it with a medication report form is still not legal. Testing for GABA will begin immediately, without delay, and trainers and veterinarians involved in the sale or use of this drug may be subject to fines and suspensions.
It's good that the USEF monitors these drugs to protect horses. Unfortunately, there are many other equine organizations and events that have no drug testing to protect horses from dangerous substances. Hopefully, other equine groups will put the health of the horse ahead of winning at all costs and begin testing for drugs.