‘CBD’ For Horse Treatment Remains Most Complex Controversial Issue

“CBD” is in headlines daily from print to airwaves to every social media.

What is CBD? Scientific definitions list the composition although precision of wording seems conflicting not understandable to lay people.

All discussion of CBD becomes especially confusing. It is a very controversial issue.

Promoters and users tout the all-good aspects for people with any health issue. While there probably isn’t a “miracle drug,” believers compile a most-encompassing list of all things ill CBD can relieve.

No promise of cure, but pain alleviation for just about anything one can comprehensibly conceive.

If it works for humans, the staunch advocates proclaim, CBD will help critters as well. Dog, cat and other pet owners came on the bandwagon first force, now its horse owners too.

Hullabaloo has broken out throughout all phases of the equine industry with opinions quite rampant.

CBD is short for “cannabidiol.” Although both hemp and marijuana belong to the Cannabis genus, Hemp-derived CBD is not marijuana.

Hemp-derived CBD was made legal in all 50 U.S. states through the 2018 Farm Bill. Federal law does not preempt state law, and there are still some restrictions within various states including Kansas in recent days.  

The bottom line, it is legal to purchase and consume hemp-derived CBD products.

As of this date, there are few, if any, research studies that use horses as subjects. However, among horse ailments CBD is proclaimed to relieve include anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, inflammation, obesity, immune deficiencies, and ulcers.

Again said to be generally safe, CBD mild effects might include drowsiness, decreased blood pressure, dizziness, fatigue, and diarrhea.

Still several major equine organizations have banned use of CBD for horses. These include the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the American Paint Horse Association, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports and other organizations.

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has strict rules regarding medicating horses before events. Recently, the USEF announced that as of September 1, 2019, positive test results for cannabinoids will incur violations.

Researchers at Kentucky Equine Research (KER) are continuing to examine CBD trends and their effects. Equine nutritionist Kathleen Crandell said, “Hemp oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their health benefits. The nervous system of both mature and immature horses also benefits CBD.”

Dr. Kent Allen, Virginia Equine Imaging veterinarian, said, “CBD is pushed as effective to treat a variety of horse issues.

“Even if some of these claims have some validity, the science is lacking. In the U.S., the production of hemp products is not regulated and efficacy claims are not evaluated by the FDA. Use of CBD products in horses is done at the consumers own risk.”

Though widely available in both the United States and Canada, the use of CBD in Canada is much more lenient. Warren Byrne of “The Horse Agency,” a Canadian-based equestrian consulting firm, cautions against purchasing non-prescription CBD supplements.

“The ones currently being marketed are made from industrial hemp and often contain toxins and questionable CBD levels,” Warren said. “There have been zero clinical trials on horses for dosage.

“All the science says it should work the same as on humans. However, the ability to manufacture quality product and do testing is nearly impossible due to federal laws,” Warren said.

Colorado State University and Auburn University are doing clinical trials on dogs that are funded by cannabis companies.

For some equestrians, however, the risk is worth the reward. Jackie Savoye, a Maryland-based Thoroughbred racehorse trainer, has turned to CBD pellets to help her young horses.

“After using CBD for my dog, I was excited to learn about the potential for my horses,” Savoye said. “As a racehorse trainer there are a lot of stresses bringing a young horse to the racetrack from the farm. I am excited to use CBD on my two-year-old filly in hopes of helping to settle her mind.”

Russell Morgan, a grand prix show jumper, said, “What I have experienced and observed in my horses when using CBD is it seems to have a calming effect. There is less muscle fatigue, and a reduction in the swelling of joints.”

Richard Nash of Centaur Health in Lexington, Kentucky, believes that CBD products for both animals and humans are a part of the next wave in holistic care. “Hemp CBD use, when manufactured properly and administered correctly, provides exceptional benefits to injured horses. That’s without the gastrointestinal issues we experience using certain other products.”

Dr. Chelsea Luedke, VetCS veterinarian, said, “CBD and hemp products are neither supplements nor pharmaceuticals. But their relaxation qualities can be particularly helpful for horses stressed by farrier visits, vet visits or trailering.”

Luedke has also successfully treated horses with osteoarthritis and similar mobility issues using CBD. Common products include oil, pellets, pastes, powders and treats.

“CBD is generally safe,” Luedke said.  “If the product is clean and backed by independent testing, it’s very safe.

However, Warren Byrne of CannaHorse believes CBD is well-tolerated by horses, but “no cannabis product should be considered safe for horses,” because of a lack of research and regulation.

Byrne emphasized that CBD should be considered medicine, not a supplement.