USEF Approves Equine Welfare-Related Rule Changes

At the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Board of Directors mid-year meeting on July 22, some significant rule and bylaw changes were brought to the table, the federation announced July 29. Some of the significant rule changes involved horse welfare, specifically prohibited practices and the new mandatory reporting of equine collapse rule.

Two important proposed extraordinary rule changes were introduced in March of 2013 by the USEF Veterinary Committee. Following extensive feedback from USEF Technical Committees, Working Groups, and from attendees at USEF Town Hall Meetings held in Florida in March and via interactive webcast in June, the USEF Board of Directors has approved the following two changes.

The first change introduces a new category of rules (GR 414 Prohibited Practices) to the USEF Rule Book which will take effect Dec. 1, 2013. The entire rule can be viewed online, but important points in this change include:

  • No horses or ponies can be injected within twelve hours prior to competing;
  • There are only three exceptions to this rule: therapeutic fluids, antibiotics, and dexamethasone for the treatment of hives (specific dosing guidelines are provided for the exceptions concerning fluids and dexamethasone); and
  • All excepted substances must be administered by a veterinarian and cannot be administered to a horse or pony within six hours prior to competing.

The second rule change becomes effective on Aug. 1, 2013, and concerns the actions taken should a horse or pony collapse at a USEF-licensed competition. This rule change proposal has been commonly referred to as the "collapse rule" and is the first to be presented in the formation of an over-arching catastrophic incident protocol. The intent of this rule is to keep the USEF informed of any collapses; empower the USEF to investigate the circumstances surrounding such an incident; and hold the trainer, or the owner if the trainer is unavailable, accountable for refusal to cooperate.

The new rule, GR 843 Mandatory Reporting & Cooperation of Horse/Pony Collapse, can be viewed online, but important components of this change include:

  • A collapse is defined as "a fall to the ground with no apparent cause";
  • The trainer, owner, or rider of a horse must report a collapse no later than three hours after it has occurred;
  • Any horse or pony that collapses is subject to drug and medication testing and inspection by a USEF appointed veterinarian (at USEF's expense); and
  • Cooperation with the federation as to an investigation concerning a horse/pony collapse or death is mandated.

Extensive documentation and a Q&A regarding the rules can be viewed at Anyone with questions about either of these rule changes can email them to You can find the USEF Rule Book online, and mobile friendly, at

Other changes made concerned the structure of the USEF Board of Directors and the discipline of western dressage.

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