FEI Hypersensitivity Protocol Refined Following Sapphire Decisions

Less than a week after the resolution of the legal dispute concerning World Cup mount Sapphire, ridden by McLain Ward (USA), new international guidelines for the evaluation of hypersensitivity have been issued, according to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).

"Following the Sapphire disqualification and the legal challenge, the FEI examined carefully the protocol as it was applied in Geneva," said Lisa Lazarus, JD, FEI General Counsel. "The FEI stands firmly by the protocol, but during the process various opportunities to clarify and strengthen it became apparent to the FEI. The (new) guidelines...reflect that effort to strengthen and clarify the existing protocol."

According to the guidelines, thermography examinations will remain a part of the whole hypersensitivity evaluation process, and responsible parties of disqualified horses will be informed of the decision and process via written explanation. Provisions are provided for the re-examination of horses before a competition under certain circumstances, and no horses can be eliminated retroactively for hypersensitivity.

Thermography "is not the definitive tool," however, according to Graeme Cooke, MA, VetMB, MRCVS, FEI Veterinary Director. Even if the thermography results are negative, a manual examination of the horse's legs could be positive and result in a decision to disqualify. "We believe [the manual examination] to be the most important element," he said.

No specific agents are being targeted during hypersensitivity evaluations, Cooke said. "We are more interested in the possibility of signs of hypersensitivity for reasons of horse welfare and maintaining fair play," he said. "It is the symptoms that are the priority."

This release of hypersensitivity guidelines also follows the April 2010 publication of a prohibited substances list as part of the FEI’s Clean Sport campaign. "The FEI will continue to use all the means at its disposal to ensure that horse welfare remains absolutely paramount," Cooke said. "And if a horse is found to be hypersensitive, it will be disqualified." The new guidelines do not replace previous guidelines but supplement them, according to Lazarus. The full protocol can be found in Annex XI of the FEI Veterinary Guidelines.

The FEI, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is the international governing body for equestrian sports.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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