Jul 25, 2023 4:01 PM

©David Lominska
©David Lominska

The United States Polo Association (USPA) began testing horses for prohibited medications in 2011. In 2018, the USPA Board of Governors approved an in-house testing program with all samples being processed by an independent laboratory. At that time the rules for equine drugs and medications were revised. Testing is now taking place year-round, and all clubs are subject to testing.

New for 2023, Penalty Matrix:
An alleged violation will be processed under the Equine Drugs and Medications Rules (EDMR) violation procedures, which include the possibility of a hearing, and penalties that include probation, suspension and fines. The minimum penalties set forth below were approved by the USPA Executive Committee in its meeting on July 11, 2023 and will serve as guidelines for the EDMR Hearing Committee, which adjudicates most violations. An alleged EDMR violation may be contested by the Responsible Party.

EDMR Table


Who can be tested?
Any event (USPA event, club event or USPA-supported activity) can be selected for testing. Once an event is selected, all participating players are subject to having their horses tested.

Who is responsible?
Both the Owner and Player of a horse that is tested are both defined as Responsible Parties in the USPA Equine Drugs and Medications Rules. This means that even if you lease a horse, you could be held responsible for a positive test result.

How does testing work?
The USPA contracts licensed veterinarian(s) to take samples from horses being played in the event selected. An hour prior to the game, a USPA representative, the sampling veterinarian(s) and the technician(s) meet with the teams and explain the testing process and answer any questions.

At least one horse will be selected from each period of the game. A minimum of eight horses must be selected in a six-period game and a minimum of six horses must be selected in a four-period game. These horses are selected at random based on the period they are playing in.

The USPA reserves the right to choose a specific horse or horses for testing, such as a lame or injured horse, in addition to the randomly selected horses. During the game, the selected horses will be identified by the technicians, who will take photos of them and prepare written descriptions. The groom is also informed that the selected horse will need to be brought to the specified testing location after the game.

At the end of the game, all horses selected are required to come to the testing location to have three vials of blood collected. Each vial will hold a maximum 8.5 mL of blood, so a total of 25.5 mL will be collected. Blood volume of an adult horse is approximately 8% of body weight, therefore an approximately 1100 pound horse has 40L of blood. The tubes are then marked with a pre-printed barcode and sample number that corresponds to the paperwork. The Owner, Player or a designated representative must accompany each horse and sign as a witness to the sample collection.

How long do results take?
Results typically take less than two weeks. Samples are sent to the laboratory as soon as possible after they are collected. Samples are packed in a locked cooler and shipped to the laboratory. Once received, they are unpacked and tested. If a positive test occurs, the laboratory alerts the USPA. The USPA then contacts the Owner or Player (or both), who is charged with an EDMR violation.

What is a designated representative?
The person who brings the horse to the designated testing area will be the one signing as witness to the testing process. This person can be the player, owner, groom, or any individual trusted by the Owner and/or Player to act as witness.

Are some medications allowed?
Players should review the Equine Drugs and Medications Rules in the USPA Rulebook to become familiar with the permitted and restricted medications lists. Permitted medications are allowed at any time. Restricted medications are only allowed up to a certain level, and there is a chart in the rules which provides the suggested latest administration time that the medication should be given prior to a game. If a test shows a restricted medication is present over the allowable blood level, it will be treated as a positive test.

Are some medications banned?
All medications that are not listed as permitted or restricted are prohibited. These types of medications include tranquilizers, anabolic steroids, corticosteroids without an approved medication report form, antihistamines, and respiratory drugs.

What is therapeutic drug use?
There are certain situations that allow for immediate medical attention within the 24-hour period before a game. These include minor injuries, colic, or other non-lameness-related conditions. In case one of these situations occurs, a licensed veterinarian can submit the USPA medication report form (located on to alert the USPA that he or she has administered certain medications which may then be present in a tested sample and verify the horse is still in a safe condition for playing. The USPA medication report form is not a “free pass.” If a positive test occurs, it will be used to assess whether a violation has occurred.

Additional questions?
For further information regarding the Equine Drugs and Medication Rules or the USPA testing program, please contact the USPA by phone: 800-232-8772, or by email: