The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Equine Drugs and Medications Program released a statement earlier this month on the decision to classify the substance Phenibut (β-phenyl gamma aminobutyric acid), as well as any equine supplement containing Phenibut, as a forbidden substance under USEF rules, effective immediately. Phenibut is considered a derivative of gamma aminobutyric acid(GABA), an amino acid used in equestrian sport for energy conservation and as a calming agent. GABA was banned by USEF in 2012, following a research study that documented several adverse reactions to the substance.
“There are no known scientific studies documenting its safety in horses and there are no known legitimate therapeutic purposes for this substance to be used in the horse,” the Federation said in the September 8th statement.
This ingredient has been found in a product called Focus Calm supplied by Uckele. Phenibut is also available as a single supplement in the US, but is not considered a pharmaceutical.
USEF members are encouraged to be aware of what they might be administering to their horse.
“Any ‘calming supplements’, intended to alter behavior, should be regarded with a high degree of scrutiny when fed to competition horses,” the statement read, “It is also important for members to understand that the names of substances included on ingredient lists may not always be easily associated with published forbidden substances. The FDA does not formally regulate animal supplements, and a high degree of variability can be present across companies and manufacturing practices. There is no guarantee that the constituents found in the product are consistent with what is listed on the list of the ingredients.”