As the FEI has now added Harpagoside, the active ingredient in Devil's claw onto its banned list, we are likely to question what we feed our horses and whether it is legal.
Harpagoside, the active ingredient in Devil's Claw has anti-inflammatory effects. It is found in Nobute, Buteless and Devil's Relief to name a few products. It is found to reduce stiffness and joint pain, especially in older horses and is also safe to use in pregnant mares. However, due to its anti-imflamatory effects, the FEI has added it to its list of banned substances.

This does not just effect international competitors, but also competitors under any organisation that adopts FEI rules (bascially all organisations)

There have been instances in recent years of unintended feeding of prohibited substances. For example, it is believed that race horses that tested positive for morphine injested residue from opium poppies that had been grown for medical use on the same premises as their horse feed was made.

However, in competitions, there is no defence, so if a prohibited substance is found in a horse’s system, the rider is automatically guilty.

Most of us don't have to worry too much, not being on the international stage. We must take care not to feed banned substances (packaging normally indicates whether a supplement is suitable for horses that compete). However, most of us also wish to ensure that we feed our horses a healthy diet, free from unneccesary additives and potentially harmful substances. 

We can look for symbols such as the BETA NOPS symbol, which certificates that a clean and thorough manufacturing process is in place to reduce the risk of contamination of feed products.

We can also follow a few basic rules on the yard. The following are recommendations from BETA and Trade magasine Over the Counter:

  • Don’t make or consume tea or coffee in the feed room: caffeine and theobromine are common contaminants.
  • Don’t smoke on the yard. Apart from obvious fire risks, nicotine is also a contaminant.
  • Give every horse its individual feed bucket and clean out after every use.
  • If a horse receives medication, one person should administer it, preferably using disposable gloves. Wash your hands afterwards, even when gloves are worn.
  • Keep all medication in a designated, locked cupboard.
  • Before a new horse arrives, empty and use suitable products to decontaminate the stable, manger and water container.


Follow these links for more information:

FEI Clean Sport Prohibited Substances Database

BETA guide to avoiding prohibited substances (downloadable PDF)