Sick horse dashes US hopes at World Endurance Champs

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2016 FEI Endurance World Champion, Spain’s Jaume Punti Dachs.
2016 FEI Endurance World Champion, Spain’s Jaume Punti Dachs. © FEI/Miro Nota

The USA has pulled its team out of the FEI World Endurance Championships in Italy after one of its horses developed a viral infection.

The team’s five horses had travelled and been stabled together over the past two weeks, leading to the decision by the US team to withdraw from the event near Pisa. The horse had developed a fever on Thursday, May 20, and the US team immediately put in place additional biosecurity measures to prevent any possible transmission of disease.

The affected horse requires monitoring under the FEI’s Return to Competition protocols following an EHV-1 (Equine herpes virus) outbreak in Europe earlier in the year. Measures include advance PCR testing, temperature monitoring of horses as well as enhanced examination on arrival procedures. Stringent biosecurity measures and mitigation plans, in line with the FEI Veterinary Regulations, also form part of the measures.

US Equestrian CEO Bill Moroney said the health and safety of the team’s horses are of the utmost importance.

“In light of the recent EHV-1 outbreaks in Europe, the FEI has put necessary precautions in place at European competitions, and we support and respect their protocols and share their duty to protect the health of all horses at the competition.”

The horses had arrived in Pisa several days ago and are stabled 2kms outside the venue. A risk assessment conducted by the FEI Veterinary Department and the Veterinary Commission established that there was a negligible risk of transmission to any other horses taking part in the event.

FEI Veterinary Director Göran Akerström commended the US team veterinarian, chef d’equipe and riders for their their proactivity in addressing the situation.

“This is a really unfortunate situation for the US Team and I understand their bitter disappointment, but this decision was necessary and is completely in line with the biosecurity measures and rules we have in place to avoid the spread of infectious disease.

“The welfare of our horses must be put above any sporting goals and ambitions, and today the USA Team have done just that. It’s the right thing to do — and the only thing to do — for the safety of all the horses competing at the event. We will continue to monitor all the participating horses closely to ensure a biosecure and successful championship for all the participating nations and athletes,” Akerström said.

The five combinations withdrawn from the championship are Karen Binns-Dicamillo (RGS Ragnar ze Monarch), Holly Corcoran (Poete), Jessica Dicamillo (Just Believe), Jeremy Reynolds (Treasured Moments), and Cheryl van  Deusen (Hoover the Moover).

12 teams left in contention

The USA’s withdrawal leaves 12 teams in contention for a team medal, with 76 riders from 31 nations lining up for the start on Saturday 22 May.

Among the riders are the 2016 World Champion, Spain’s Jaume Punti Dachs, and his wife Maria Alvarez Ponton who has taken individual gold twice during her successful career – first at Terengganu in Malaysia in 2008 and again in Kentucky, USA in 2010. Also vying for top spot this time out will be Alex Luque Moral from Spain and Bahrain’s Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa who respectively took silver and bronze at the 2016 World Championships in Samorin, Slovakia.

The 160km event is being staged in Parco Naturale Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli, one of the largest and most ancient nature parks in Tuscany. The park extends over 23,000 hectares and boasts a huge variety of landscapes.

It gets under way at 7am on May 22, and is being broadcast live on FEI TV.

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