Endurance Horse Welfare Initiatives Introduced

Endurance Horse Welfare Initiatives Introduced

FEI Director of Endurance Ian Williams addresses the session dedicated to the discipline during the 2014 FEI Sports Forum.

Photo: Germain Arias-Schreiber/FEI

Yesterday the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) announced bold steps designed to improve endurance horse welfare, proposing unprecedented athlete penalties for equine injuries, extended rest periods, and increased accountability. The moves were fully supported by delegates attending the endurance round table on the second day of the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“The welfare of the horse is not just a veterinary issue, it’s an issue for all those who work in the sport,” said John McEwen, FEI first vice president and chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee.

Proposed rule changes relating to officials’ accountability and responsibility, increased protection of horses through athlete penalty points and extended rest periods, appointment of independent governance advisors, and improved conflict of interest regulations received wide support from attendees.

There was also wide support for the new FEI Endurance Codex, which the endurance committee has produced to cover endurance officials, and separately endurance athletes and registered trainers. The codex—which defines responsibility, accountability, and sanctions for those in breach of the rules—already exists for FEI veterinarians.

The rule changes will be circulated to national federations for final review prior to going before the FEI bureau at its in-person meeting on June 9-10 for approval and immediate implementation.

During the debate session that followed, there was a call for information about injuries at national events to be included in the Global Endurance Injuries Study (GEIS); this was backed by Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DECVPH, MRCVS, whom the FEI commissioned to set up the study.

“The FEI has done a great job of demonstrating what can be done with data that is currently available from FEI events and it is clearly going in the right direction,” Parkin said. “Adding in data from national events is only going to improve that situation. The new regulations have an impact that is really beneficial to the welfare of the horse.”

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, also voiced his support for the GEIS and improved monitoring: “The need to make evidence based decisions is so important for equine welfare and I fully support the FEI’s injury surveillance program. Notwithstanding the limitations on data from national competitions, I would urge national federations to provide data to the GEIS and for the FEI to use all its influence to make that happen.”

Andrew Finding, chair of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG)—which was tasked with producing a long-term plan for the discipline—expressed his appreciation for the support of the group’s recommendations.

“I would like to express on behalf of myself and my colleagues on the ESPG our gratitude for the support and the determined effort made by the FEI to put in place our recommendations,” he said. “You should be applauded for that work, and we are grateful for the diligence you have applied.”

Brian Sheahan, chair of the endurance committee, added, “To protect the welfare of the horse, we need to know that we’re doing the right thing. I would like to see increased completion rates, reduced injuries and illness in the horse, and better course design.

“To maintain the integrity of our sport, we need a reduction in doping, improved compliance by athletes and trainers and improved rule enforcement by officials,” he continued. “This sport should demonstrate the highest standards of sportsmanship in a fair and equal competition. And may the best combination of horse and athlete win.”

An online discussion platform to continue the debate on all topics discussed at the 2014 FEI Sports Forum is available online. http://sportsforum.fei.org/

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