“Blood” Proposal for Dressage Horses Shelved, Sources Report

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Parzival with blood on his mouth leaving the arena at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A controversial proposal to allow a horse displaying any sign of blood at a major dressage championship to be examined by veterinarians and resume the competition if there is no risk to the horse’s welfare has been shelved for this year by the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) Dressage Committee, sources told dressage-news.com Tuesday.

The proposal was to have been presented to the FEI General Assembly, the governing body comprising 133 national federations, at its annual meeting in Rio de Janeiro next week.

However, the outcry over the proposal that was sent to national federations last month was so great and the United States threatening to lead opposition to the so-called “blood” rule that the idea has been quietly withdrawn for “further study” by the Dressage Committee.

The proposal for a rule about the appearance of blood on a horse during competition came about as a result of blood on the mouth of Jerich Parzival when ridden by Adelinde Cornelissen at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year. The horse was later determined to have inflicted a small nick on his tongue.

However, the ground jury eliminated the horse from the Grand Prix that was the Nations Cup competition, based on common practice dealing with the welfare of the horse.

Unlike jumping and eventing, both Olympic disciplines like dressage, as well as endurance, there was no specific language dealing wih the sight of blood.

The rules for the other disciplines are governed by language similar to this application to eliminate a jumping horse: “Horses bleeding on the flank(s), in the mouth or nose or marks indicating excessive use of spurs or of the whip anywhere on the Horse (in minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, Officials may authorize the rinsing or wiping of the mouth and allow the rider to continue; any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in disqualification.);

The International Dressage Trainers Club proposed similar language for dressage competitions.

The FEI Dressage Committee of six members proposed limiting the rule initially to major championships where the possibility of placing in the team competition could be severely impacted by the appearance of blood due to a “minor case” where a horse appeared to have bitten his tongue or lip, for example.

If the FEI General Assembly had approved the rule, it could have taken effect at the Olympic Games in London next year rasing the specter of what some opponents called a “nightmare scenario.”

In this scenario, audiences around the world would see an incident unfold on television or Internet streaming video as well as via thousands of mobile telephones communicating video and still images globally.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation was seeking approval of its own dressage committee to have the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly attempt to have the proposal removed from the package of dressage items and sent back to the FEI Dressage Committee for further review.

By further studying the proposal, the sources said, the proposal now will not be considered at least until the 2012 General Assembly, several months after the Olympics.