First, and foremost, the Tennessee Walking Horse industry embraces science-based inspections in enforcement initiatives. In June 2012, the Walking Horse Trainers Association in concert with the Tennessee Walking Show Horses Organizations (the precursor to PSHA), launched an industry program implementing and funding the swabbing of the feet of horses in order to detect substances that harm the house or mask substances that have harmed the horse. Repeated requests were made in the implementation of this program for partnership from the USDA, AVMA, and AAEP to help identify substances to be tested for as well as baseline and tolerance levels.  They all refused to work with the industry to establish a scientifically sound swabbing program.


The USDA has repeatedly stated that it would be testing for substances it considered to be “irritating, numbing, and masking agents that clearly would constitute violations of HPA.” However, at no time have they provided any information as to how they scientifically determine a substance is “irritating, numbing, or masking” and specifically at what levels any substance is deemed to be “irritating, numbing or masking.”  A copy of “Foreign Substances in 2008 Defined” is attached along with “Foreign Substances Found” from the USDA’s presentation at the Sound Horse Conference.  In June 2008 the USDA announced its “Protocol for Foreign Substance Penalty,” also attached.  However, to date, there has been no information provided to the industry as to what substances are actually tested for, much less how it was determined that the substances tested for actually violate the HPA by altering the horse’s gait or masking the inspection process.

In all the established equine drug testing programs, forbidden substances are considered as those with a potential to affect performance, provide an unfair advantage, or potentially dangerous to the horse. The rules are not intended to discourage the proper veterinary care of horses if such treatment would not threaten any of the important objectives. It has long been recognized that horses in training, like all athletes, will at times require the administration of certain therapeutic medications to preserve their health and welfare. A performance-altering substance is a substance not identified as a therapeutic medication or any substance with no accepted therapeutic use in horses in training, showing or racing, excluding substances that are
endogenous, dietary, or environmental. Endogenous, dietary, or environmental substances are substances produced within or by the horse itself (endogenous) or that may unavoidably become part of the food supply (dietary) and or environment of horses (environmental).

Foreign Substances listed in the USDA’s Report are found in personal care products such as cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, ointments and general over the counter first aid products.  Compounds found in products used on a routine basis for all breeds of horses such as fly spray, grooming products and therapeutic medications, together with substances that are endogenous, dietary, or environmental are also cited as HPA “violations.”

By way of example, set forth below are several substances identified by the USDA as “irritating, numbing or masking” and therefore HPA “violations”:

Isopropyl palmitate and myristate: [cosmetic lotion]:   Found in shampoos, Palmolive soap being one of them.  It is considered an “indispensable ingredient” in high quality shampoos and conditioners. Http://

Elemental sulfur:  Elemental sulfur is present in every cell and is structurally and functionally important in more that 150 compounds in the body including tissues, enzymes, harmones, antibodies and antioxidants.  In animals, the highest concentration of sulfur is found in the joints, hair, skin and nails. It is known as “nature’s beauty mineral.”

o-Aminoazutulene = [dye i.e., hoof black polish]:   A grooming aid used in showing - cosmetic - a substance that makes a horses hooves shiny and “pretty.” Legally used by most all breeds, and approved for use by the USEF.

Octyl Methoxycinnamate:   This is a product found in most all equine fly sprays, typically in most barns, and has a residual effect for at least 14 days.  Allegations are that it blocks thermography but without any scientific basis as to how much of this compound it takes to block a thermograph exam its definition as a prohibited substance is highly suspect.

The NHBPA, USEF, FEI all have substances considered to be “forbidden.” These are drugs that can affect performance giving an unfair advantage and pose a danger to a horse.  There is no therapeutic use for these substances in the equine world. Such substances would certainly be “allyl isothiocyanate” [mustard oil] and/or “crotoris oleum - phorbol” [croton oil] which are products/compounds alleged to rampantly being used to sore Tennessee Walking Horses.  Yet, to the best of our knowledge, none of these compounds has been found on the USDA’s Foreign Substance violation reports.

Given these examples, it is impossible to say that each “positive” swab result reported by the USDA was the result of the application of a substance to the horse’s limb which was intended to alter the horse’s gait or mask inspection.  The failure of the USDA to identify the substances to
be tested for as causing irritation and/or masking results is a false positive result and improper because no scientific link to a soring violation of the HPA has been provided.


In addition to failing to identify actual substances which could have irritating and/or masking affects, the USDA has also failed to establish tolerance levels/baselines above which a detected substance can said to have an irritant and/or masking affect.  Instead, the USDA’s current swabbing program utilizes a “zero tolerance” level and reports as “positive” any swab result which has substances present at any level.  This “zero tolerance” testing being conducted by the USDA as below 1 part per million or 1 part per billion simply establishes there is a presence of a substance - testing down to these very low levels, not how much is there [concentration] and definitely not whether there is a potential to affect performance, provide an unfair advantage, or is potentially dangerous to the horse is scientifically inappropriate.

Zero Tolerance testing is defined as utilization of the most sensitive and rigorous testing procedures possible for the substance in question, encompassing the full scope and sensitivity of modern analytical technology.  As such, the analytical limit defined by zero tolerance policy “testing” is simply the “limit of detection” [LOD] of the most sensitive testing technique available.  Zero tolerance policy testing, therefore, continually increases in sensitivity as analytical methods improve and as technology has increased the capability to detect to a “picogram” (pg) which is one trillionth of a gram and beyond.  In perspective, one part per billion to everyday life, represents one second in your life if you are 32 years of age.  One part per trillion is one second in your life if you are 32,000 years of age.

In the spring of 2008, in a response to the “baseline” for testing, the USDA stated that “...the controlled amount has been detected by running .0001% benzocaine standard for every 5th sample.”

This is one part per billion, which is equivalent to ONE DROP of water diluted into a 10,000 gallon swimming pool,

or a pinch of salt to a 10 ton bag of potato chips.

The USDA initiated a Foreign Substance Program
under the HPA in 2004 using the Znose which has been used at airports for years to detect explosive compounds.   This was abandoned in 2005.  In 2006 the USDA announced swabbing of the pasterns [ankles] of the TWH would
undergo testing at the USDA’s National Veterinary Service Lab using GC/MS which can “...detect minute amounts of substances.” Numerous letters seeking information and expressing concerns of environmental contaminant, cosmetic, therapeutic product, as well as thresholds, cut- offs, and detection times were made to the USDA, however very little information was provided
by the USDA.  On June 29, 2012, at the Tennessee Walking Horse of Today Equine Conference [TTEC], the USDA stated that it has been testing at LESS than 1 ppm (one part per million). No explanation as to how much “less than” is, but this is equivalent to “less than” one drop of water diluted into the fuel tank of a compact car or about 32 seconds out of a year.

In 1991 the McKinsey Report, addressing drug testing in the racing industry,  stated that:

“The industry should develop test specifications, especially bottom cut-off sensitivity levels, to reduce positive that are not meaningful.”

Continuing this line of thought, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), in its 2000 Policy of Therapeutic1 Medication2 in Racehorses, stipulates that:

“Detection of pharmacologically-insignificant levels of therapeutic medications should not constitute a violation of medication rules.”

Dr. Steven Barker is chemist for the Louisiana State Racing Commission.  In his study on Drug Contaminates Problems For Zero Tolerance presented during the NHBPA committee meeting in February 2007, Dr. Baker reported that “racehorses can come into contact with drug residue just about anywhere.”  “Small quantities of 6 drugs were found in samples taken from stalls, test barns and pools of water at Louisiana  racetracks.”  Even dust samples were tested and “trace amounts of substances were found.”  Some drugs were detected “from just wiping the interior of stalls”.  Baker warned that “with highly sensitive testing methods and zero-tolerance policies, a trainer could be charged with a positive of having one molecule of a substance in a sample.” He went on to explain other potential sources of trace amounts of drugs “are feed, pasture, grasses, improper handling of samples and mistakes by veterinarians.”  Dr.  Barker also claimed about 80% of drug positives fall under the category of having no impact on a horse outside of 24 hours.  Dr. Barker went on to say “These comments I’ve heard that any level (of a substance) could potentially have an impact on performance is crap!”


The Racehorse drug testing began in the early 1900s.  It is the longest established, broadest in scope, and possibly the most sensitive drug testing program in existence. Like the government’s SAMHSA program for workplace testing, it is performed using blood and urine with published thresholds.  Leading drug testing in  equine research is The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA). Dr. Thomas Tobin, a world leading expert in this field, is a co-author of the NHBPA.   He is a veterinarian, pharmacologist and toxicologist, and professor at the Gluck Equine Research Center, Department of Veterinary Science and the Graduate Center for Toxicology,  University of Kentucky. He is well published and has testified before Congress. His research support is approximately $15 million through 2012.   Thresholds and withdrawal times are scientifically researched and published by the NHBPA.

The United States Equine Federation [USEF] is reportedly the largest sport horse testing program in the world and has operated its own laboratory since 1995.  It is the national governing body for equestrian  sports and is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.  It is responsible for enforcing the rules of over 27 breeds and disciplines. It utilizes over 100 veterinarians and scientist.  The USEF contracts with state and national association for testing, including the Federation Equine International [FEI] which is the international governing body of equestrian sports headquartered in Switzerland and the American Quarter Horse Association [AQHA] in implementing their drug and medication programs. Again, thresholds and withdrawal times are scientifically established and published.

The USDA has never established or published any thresholds and withdrawal times.


At least three major approaches to the problem of medication control have evolved, none of which has been found to be entirely satisfactory:   1) quantitative “thresholds”;  2) “detection times”;   and, 3) withdrawal time guidelines.”   Of these, quantitative “thresholds” are, in scientific and regulatory terms, found to be the most satisfactory solution.

QUANTITATIVE -  is a test that both unequivocally identified and establishes the concentration of the prohibited substance in the test sample.  This is the test that is universally used by science based testing programs such as the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program [“SAMHSA”], United States Equine Federation and the Federation Equine International.

QUALITATIVE - is a test that simply identified the presence of a prohibited substance in the test sample - not the concentration.  This is the testing being done by the USDA in its Foreign Substance Program under the HPA.  There is no documented proof as to what level a substance has any effect, i.e., one drop of water in a 10,000 gallon swimming pool, if the substance is a residual from a therapeutic medication, an environmental contaminant, a natural occurring substance, or dietary.


The Humane Society of the United States [HSUS] has attacked the compliance statistics of the industry, as well as those of the USDA, based on the percentage of foreign substances found via swabbing the hair on the pasterns [ankles] of our horses alleging that “...these substances are numbing agents and drugs that mask evidence of abuse....”  They have stated numerous times,

Page -5-
including in a Petition for Rule Making, that “...of the 52 horses tested at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration every single horse tested positive for illegal agents.”

To be very clear - to-date the USDA has never provided any scientific proof as to what is “irritating, numbing or masking,” at what levels any substance would be “irritating, numbing or masking,” and definitely not whether there is a potential to affect performance, provide an unfair advantage, or potentially dangerous to the horse - which is the standard for every other breed in the equine world! A copy of the “52 out of 52 Report” is attached.

To-date, no federal cases have ever been filed and only “letters of warnings” have been sent to individuals. Unbelievably those notices have been posted on the USDA’s website without any ability of the trainer, owner or exhibitor to challenge the “determination” of an illegal “foreign substance.”

Can one claim that the 96.7% to 98.5% of the TWHs that go thru the most stringent inspection in the world, i.e., x-ray, thermography, palpation, locomotive testing [walking and turning in small circles] to be non-compliant for a 1 part per million or billion molecule of any of the above substances found on hair on their ankles? Non-compliant and an HPA violation for a minute molecule equivalent to a pinch of salt to a 10 ton bag of potato chips or less than a drop of water in a 10,000 gallon swimming pool?

In perspective: USDA inspectors themselves test “compliant” with less than 2,000 ppb [ng/ml
= 1 ppb] of Morphine in their urine.  The Tennessee Walking Horse with .0001% [1 ppb] on the hair on its ankle is “non-compliant” and subject to Federal Prosecution.  At race tracks in Ohio and Louisiana limits for Morphine are established at 75 ppb and 50 ppb respectively, compared to 2,000 ppb for government employees.  These testing limits for all equine, except the TWH, are very conservative when compared with the limits in place in human forensic  testing.  The limit of one part per billion being used by the USDA in its Foreign Substance Program, applicable only to the TWH industry, is totally unrealistic and without any scientific bases.


Technology is capable of helping eliminate soring in the TWH industry.  The Industry requests that it be treated like all other breeds, including the 27 breeds and disciplines tested by the USEF
and others.  No other breed is subject to zero tolerance testing for any substance without providing any scientific proof as to what is “irritating, numbing or masking,” at what levels any substance would be “irritating, numbing or masking,” and definitely not whether there is a potential to affect performance, provide an unfair advantage, or is potentially dangerous to the horse.

The Tennessee Walking Horse industry embraces science-based inspections in enforcement initiatives.  The Industry stands ready to work with the USDA and any other organization in the development of scientific based Foreign Substance testing with scientifically defined and based thresholds as well as totally prohibited substances.