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Equine Muscle Builders: Choose Carefully for SafetyBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · November 2, 2016

The word “designer,” when used in reference to horses, draws different images for different people. Perhaps you envision the designer clothes you sport while riding your horse or the matching designer tack your horse dons. Designer feeds, even. But what about designer anabolic steroids in your nutritional supplements?

“According to one study*, so-called ‘designer steroids’ can be hiding in your horse’s supplements,” explained Catherine Whitehouse, M.S., a nutrition advisor for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

As described by the researchers, the term “designer steroid” refers to any anabolic (muscle-building) steroid that has been intentionally crafted to evade detection by anti-doping laboratories.

“The unusual chemical structures of these steroids still make them effective as anabolic agents but undetectable by drug-testing protocols currently used in equine sports,” Whitehouse added.

Do all of muscle-building supplements contain designer steroids? Of course not. That said, many veterinary nutritional supplements are not produced like pharmaceutical drugs or human nutritional supplements using appropriate quality-assurance policies. As such, the safety of these products can be questionable, especially once owners are offering more than one or two supplements.

To achieve maximum benefit and safety from any nutritional supplement you offer your horse, purchase supplements from reputable manufacturers that:

  • Follow pharmaceutical-grade quality-assurance procedures;
  • Produce supplements containing the type and amount of ingredient listed on the product label;
  • Have easy-to-follow instructions on their labels;
  • Provide customer support easily on the product label or website;
  • Test their products in scientific studies and publish those results; and
  • Ensure their supplements are free from contaminants and other ingredients not listed on the label.

For additional information, read Selecting Horse Supplements: Four Tips.

*Waller, C.C. and M.D. McLeod. A review of designer anabolic steroids in equine sports. Drug Testing and Analysis. In press.