Drugs Rule? Or Drug Rules?

I recently read an article on the Chronicle of the Horse titled, "Are Drug Rules Putting our Horses at Greater Danger?" by Robin Greenwood.

Ms. Greenwood addressed the hunter ring (where I most often show), where the style of a sedate and mellow, steady horse is the goal.  As the article notes, the nature of many Thoroughbreds makes it difficult for them to match, and therefore beat, the calm of a gelded warmblood (TBs are called hot-blooded for a reason!).

The article summarized that rules prohibiting drug use are likely moot because competitors will always stay a step ahead in finding a new drug that won't be detected in a urine or blood sample.  The author concluded: "Perhaps it’s time to consider legal ways to help a horse relax rather than making that completely illegal."

Do you agree?
Have the rules become so restrictive that competitors are being driven to find more creative ways (that are often dangerous) to circumvent the rules?


A beautiful hunter (and I believe I spot a warmblood brand on the right hind).
Source: the Wellington 2012 show from examiner.com


I believe the answer lies in why competitive organizations create the rules in the first place.  I would presume the primary goal is horse safety and welfare.  And in close second, to maintain the integrity of the sport.  Our American baseball players aren't (supposed) to use steroids because we value the integrity of a drug-less sport.
And Olympic swimmers are no longer permitted to use full body suits in races because we want to see who is the natural best, not by artificial means.

Perhaps the hunter ring should choose to re-evaluate the desired "type" for a winning round, so that TBs have a chance of beating the "dead"bloods (I say that lovingly about warmbloods!)

In a previous post I discussed whether we need more legislated laws to protect horse welfare.  In general, I think that rules of an equine discipline can adequately set a standard of care without the involvement of state legislature.
But I think it is important to consistently re-evaluate our position on horse health and well-being in the competitive world.  It is okay (and even admirable) to want to win, and as an equine society we need to decide what parameters are necessary to provide a fair playing field- and if that means no calming drugs are allowed- then do we care that (in general) the TBs can't beat a warmblood in the currently-in-vogue hunter round style?

I appreciate Ms. Greenwood's article because it prompts serious discussion about how rules and the governing bodies of horse sport should balance protecting horse welfare, creating a fair playing field, and improving competition.
Could legalizing certain drugs in fact improve horse welfare?
It doesn't seem like on the whole it would, but it is certainly an intriguing question!