Guest blogger Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association, explains about BETA NOPS

Many of you will have noticed the green BETA NOPS logos on bags of horse feed, but I wonder how many riders understand exactly what it means?

The logo shows that a feed manufacturer is a member of an important feed assurance scheme designed to help reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances, such as morphine, which is found in certain types of poppies, contaminating your horse's feed or supplements.

It was developed by BETA almost 10 years ago following an increase in the number of positive dope tests on racehorses. Only companies that have signed up to the scheme are allowed to print the NOPS logo on their packaging. More than 80 producers of horse feed, supplements and forage are now members of the code, which acts as a feed verification system to show that all identified risks of contamination have been examined at every step of the production process.

You can see all member companies here

The NOPS Code is endorsed by the British Equestrian Federation, British Horseracing Authority and National Trainers Federation. Since its introduction in 2009, there has been a significant drop in the number of competition horses testing positive for naturally occurring prohibited substances. The way in which poppies are now grown and processed has also helped to cut the risk of cross-contamination.

But what exactly are NOPS and where do they come from?

A naturally occurring prohibited substance is something that is already present in an ingredient or anything that ends up in feed as a result of inadvertent cross-contamination during an ingredient’s harvesting or processing before arrival at the factory.

The main NOPS – and where they can be found – are:

  • Caffeine – chocolate and coffee.
  • Theobromine – chocolate and its metabolite, tea.
  • Morphine – opium poppy.
  • Hyoscine – nightshade.
  • Hordenine – germinating barley.
  • Bufotenine – phalaris grasses, toads and toadstools.
  • Lupanine – lupins.
  • Atropine – atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade.

Some plain, basic, common-sense stable management on the yard is a really valuable way to help avoid problems with prohibited substances. Here are some key pointers…

Stable management:

  • Inform staff of all possible sources of contamination.
  • Ban members of staff from eating and drinking in the stable.
  • Everyone should wash their hands after carrying out treatments on a horse or themselves, or wear disposable gloves.
  • Stable staff need to declare any medication they are taking.
  • Before a new horse arrives, the stable should be emptied, cleaned and disinfected, not forgetting the manger and water trough.
  • Empty and decontaminate the horsebox after each journey.
  • Avoid mixing boxes for horses on treatment – even if only for a short while.
  • Avoid sharing tack and equipment between horses.

Feed management:

  • Choose feed from companies signed up to the BETA NOPS Code.
  • Keep labels or delivery notes, which state batch numbers of the feed, because suppliers have to keep their own samples of the batches.
  • Keep samples of feed for two months after the feed has been consumed in case of any future investigations.
  • Lock the feed store when not in use.
  • Never place the first-aid kit, equipment or grooming kit in the feed store.
  • Give one person the task of preparing and handing out feeds – making sure they are fully briefed on contamination risks.
  • Clean buckets and mangers used to administer medication thoroughly after use.

Free resources from BETA:

We have published a free guide and poster to help in the battle against NOPS and both can be downloaded here:

The BETA Guide to Avoiding Prohibited Substances leaflet

The BETA Guide to Avoiding Prohibited Substances poster