Horse “Blood” Proposal Sent to all National Federations, USA to Lead Fight Against Rule
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The Internaional Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Committee has sent to the 133 national federations a controversial proposal to allow elimination of a horse with visible blood eliminated from a championship to undergo a veterinary examination and, if found not to be harmful to the horse, to be allowed a second opportunity to compete.
The proposal made by the International Dressage Trainers Club and accepted by the Dressage Committee over the objections of the formal groups of riders, officials (judges) and organizers is aimed at producing a consensus that would be approved at the FEI General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro Nov. 11-14.
However, the U.S. Equestrian Federation is seeking approval of its own dressage committee to have the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly seek to have the so-called “blood” proposal removed from the package of dressage proposals and submitted as a separate single issue for a vote.
The U.S. will then propose sending the issue back to the FEI Dressage Committee to prepare a new proposal for a rule dealing with “blood” that essentially provides for elimination if blood is visible and no opportunity to compete again.
U.S. officials admit privately that exposure of the issue may lead to the proposal being witdrawn before the General Assembly.
Either way, a successful effort by the U.S. would delay implementation until the 2012 General Assembly, well after the Olympics in London next July.
The proposal submitted to the FEI national federations is being labeled by many stakeholders as a “nightmare scenario.”
The U.S. move would leave in place the vague wording covering “welfare of the horse” for another year, but provide more time to build opposition to the “second chance” proposal and to write a clear-cut rule that a horse displaying blood will be eliminated from competition with no recourse.
The issue of the so-called “blood” came about as a result of the elimination of Parzival ridden by Adelinde Cornelissen of The Netherlands from the Grand Prix that decided the team gold medal at the World Equestran Games in Kentucky last year. The horse had nicked his tongue, and under generally accepted practise dealing with the sight of any blood on a horse, Parzival was eliminated by the president of the ground jury, the head of the judging panel. Holland won gold based on the scores of the three other combinations which included Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas.
Following that incident, many in the horse industry pressed for a clear-cut rule.
Some influential trainers argued that in a major championship such as the Olympic Games in London next year a horse that is eliminated because of the visibility of blood should undergo a veterinary inspection.
Details have not been worked out, but the probable course of action would be that a panel of veterinarians would determine the degree of seriousness. If the injury is not considered against the welfare of the horse, the combination would be given the opportunity to ride again.
One of the arguments in favor of this approach is the format to be applied in dressage in London of three team riders and one individual.
If a horse nominated for the team is found to be unfit more than two hours before start time, the team has the right to use the individual combination to complete a team of three. However, if a horse is found to be unfit within that two-hour window then the team is autmatically disqualified as it could not fulfill the requirement for three scores.
Opponents of the “second chance” present a “nightmare scenario” of a horse on a prospective medal team with blood on it being excused from the competition, undergoing a veterinary examination, then going through another warm-up before going back into the arena.
All of this would be under the microscopic scrutiny of global television cameras and thousands of mobile telephones recording the event and a probable torrent of comments on Twitter, Facebook and other worldwide social networks that would be devastating for the sport. Further, the pressures on the veterinarians could be unbearable; imagine, goes one scenario, if a prsospectve medal team is effectively disqualified if blood shows on a horse and the veterinariany panel decides the horse should not be allowed to compete again? The effects could impact the veterinarians for years afterward.
The outpouring of objections in recent years to various training practices, they say, would pale in comparison.
Although U.S. horse shows have not faced the same level of scrutiny as in Europe–show horse sports do not have the same degree of popular interest in the U.S.–the U.S. federation led by Olympic eventing gold medalist David O’Connor is the largest in the Western Hemishere and is generally regarded as among the leading dressage nations.