If you are someone who regularly feeds a Devil’s Claw supplement to your horse, as of January 1st 2016 you will need to take greater care if your horse competes under FEI or BHA rules. The active ingredient contained in Devil’s Claw is Harpagoside – now listed as a ‘prohibited substance’ by the FEI governing body.
Harpagoside is a herb with natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and is often used to help ease joint and muscle pain in horses and ponies. It is also reported to have sedative and diuretic qualities, which may give a horse an advantage or at least, affect its performance in competition. For this reason it is often referred to as ‘herbal bute.’
Although it’s long been thought that Devil’s Claw poses no problems for use in affiliated competition due to its status as a ‘herbal’ preparation, there is little doubt now about the suitability of this product in equestrian sport. Herbal supplements may well be naturally beneficial for horses and ponies but, by affecting how the body functions, enhancing or reducing sensitivity in one or more areas, they are, by definition, ‘doping’ products subject to the same tough penalties under FEI rules.
The recent restrictions have called to question the suitability of other products in the ‘herbal’ category, like capsaicin, which is banned by the FEI but not listed on the banned substances list of herbs, alongside valerian. The UK Rules of Racing permit herbal preparations in training, so long as they are withdrawn prior to race days and are not in the horse’s system on competition day.
Now if a horse tests positive for Harpagoside, the outcome is going to be immediate disqualification from the event (and possibly future events) and a hefty fine. If you compete regularly, you are probably entirely clued-up on doping rules and restrictions, but if you are at all unsure about anything you are feeding your horse, please refer to the Beta NOPS Scheme.
Also, make sure you examine feed labels and contact suppliers to double check the product is UFAS NOPS approved and is safe to feed competition horses. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below or email me directly: [email protected]
Written by: Hannah Dyball