FEI officials have moved quickly to close a loophole over catastrophic injuries to endurance horses.
The current FEI Endurance rules define a catastrophic injury as one requiring euthanasia.
Sanctions are applied on the basis of the owner agreeing to the horse being euthanised and can be avoided if euthanasia is refused, with obvious serious welfare consequences for the horse.
The Endurance Temporary Committee, set up by the FEI in a further bid to tidy up undesirable aspects of the discipline and return it to its “original roots”, discussed the catastrophic injury issue during its December 12 meeting.
It proposed that, in addition to catastrophic injury, the sanction would also apply when there is a “severe injury” to the horse.
The rule change is intended to remove any incentive to truck a horse away from the ride site for euthanasia in a bid to avoid the penalty for a catastrophic injury.
The FEI Board – formerly the bureau – unanimously approved the rule change during its teleconference on December 19, in a swift move to close the loophole.
The rule change will impose 80 penalty points on a rider if their horse suffers either a severe injury and/or a catastrophic injury at an FEI competition.
If the same rider has a horse suffer a severe injury and/or a catastrophic injury within 12 months of a similarly severe injury to another horse in an FEI competition, the rider will be automatically suspended for six months.
A catastrophic injury is defined as an injury which, in the opinion of the Veterinary Commission, requires immediate euthanasia or contributes to the death of a horse in competition, however it is caused.
A severe injury will be defined as a musculoskeletal injury (fracture, serious tendon, ligament, or muscle); or a metabolic injury (serious colic, acute kidney injury, myopathy that fails to respond to treatment); or any other condition that, in the opinion of veterinary officials, requires further assessment and continued appropriate veterinary care beyond the period of competition.
The change will become effective on February 1 next year.
The change will likely provide a more accurate picture of endurance horse deaths, and remove any potential benefits from transporting badly injured horses from events for later euthanasia in a bid to get a “failed to complete”, which does not attract the 80 penalty points, as would a catastrophic injury.
The FEI says the Endurance Temporary Committee continues to working on its proposals for Endurance rule changes for 2020, which will be discussed at the FEI Sports Forum next April.
The governing body says it intends to reach out to organisers to test the implementation of modified heart rates and presentation times in order to gather information that will be presented as part of the endurance discussions at the Sports Forum.