Canada sets up task force to explore leg sensitivity rules

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Tiffany Foster and Victor.
Tiffany Foster and Victor at the Olympic Games. © Cealy Tetley

Equine Canada is setting up a task force to review the FEI’s protocols around leg hypersensitivity in horses following the Olympic disqualification of Tiffany Foster’s mount, Victor.

Victor was found in a veterinary inspection to have s a small nick on his coronary band, and was disqualified from further competition at the Greenwich Park venue of London 2012 under the FEI’s hypersensitivity protocol “due to an area of clear and obvious hypersensitivity on the front of the left forelimb”.

Foster said at the time the nick was “like a paper cut”.

The Veterinary Commission stated that the horse had an area of inflammation and sensitivity on the left forelimb just above the hoof. There was no accusation of malpractice, but the horse was deemed unfit to compete by the Ground Jury and was disqualified from the Second Qualifier of the Jumping competition at the Olympic Games.

Equine Canada said on Tuesday it had asked its Sport Council to set up a task force to review the FEI’s protocol for leg hypersensitivity to ascertain, from the perspective of Canada’s equestrian sport community, if the protocol and its application are achieving the intended outcomes in an equitable and effective manner.

“We made a commitment to our athletes and our members that we would undertake a review,” Equine Canada’s president, Mike Gallagher, said. “We are honouring that commitment.”

Equine Canada said the Canadian Olympic Show Jumping Team suffered a serious handicap when Victor was ruled out of the Games.

Equine Canada noted at the time that further discussion regarding the FEI’s Hypersensitivity Protocol was needed.

“Victor sustained a superficial cut on the front of the left front coronet band,” said the Canadian Olympic Team Veterinarian for Jumping Dr Sylvie Surprenant, the day after Victor’s disqualification.

“In our opinion the horse was fit to compete as he showed no signs of lameness. However, the FEI hypersensitivity protocol is such that if the horse is sensitive to the touch, regardless of the cause, the horse is disqualified.

“While the FEI rules for the hypersensitivity protocol were followed, we believe that there should be a review of this protocol.”

 Since its introduction following the 2008 Beijing Olympics, several international horses have been disqualified from competition as a result of the protocol, including McLain Ward’s Sapphire (US) at the 2010 World Cup Finals – a decision which was further investigated by the FEI and resulted in a review of the hypersensitivity protocol.

The creation and work of the task force will be overseen by co-chairs Kerri McGregor, Canadian Equestrian Team leader and chair of Sport Council, and Mark Samuel, Canada’s elected representative to Group IV of the FEI. He is a member of Equine Canada’s Sport Council and former Chair of Jump Canada.

“In the next few weeks, as the co-chairs of the task force, we will be recruiting a knowledgeable, proactive committee membership and firmly establishing our goals and objectives,” said Samuel, also a former member of the Canadian Equestrian Show Jumping Team, representing Canada in six Nations’ Cups.

Gallager said: “Equine Canada looks forward to presenting our recommendations to the international community for consultation and discussion, and to work globally with the FEI towards improving the hypersensitivity protocol and its goals to protect horse welfare and fair play.”

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One thought on “Canada sets up task force to explore leg sensitivity rules

  • May 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm
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    Good rule, even if it results in a little ‘unfairness’ on a rare occasion…..if a horse’s legs are too sensitive to touch to pass a vet check, they should not be jumping, regardless of the cause. High level competitors should take better care of their horses legs in the run up to competition, so that they don’t get little ‘ cuts ‘ or little nicks……there is no proof at the end of the day how the leg came to be ‘sensitive’, so it is best to rule them out altogether every time! It’s like the drug rules in other sports….disqualify always, because then there is no recourse to ‘ but it’s not my fault’ or ‘I didn’t know!’.

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