This month centres on the discussion the FEI prepares on their proposed rule changes for 2022 regarding blood rules, top hats and herbs while the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is also looking at banning race horses entering the human food chain.
The discussion surrounding blood rules is back on the table for the FEI, as they are a contentious topic and vary between disciplines. The most recent call came from Ireland’s Billy Twomey, who was eliminated under the rule following his winning Grand Prix in Florida.
“The board tasked the technical chairs to discuss and review the blood rules within the discipline - specific rules and veterinary regulations in consultation with the legal department,” - FEI
They will reach an agreement and the final draft of rules covering international horse sport will be released on the 18th of October. Then, they will be debated and voted on by the FEI general assembly in November.
The ban of top hats has also been in the spotlight. There is another push to overturn the 2019 ban by the dressage community who prefers to wear the top hat during dressage competitions in opposition to the protective headgear.
The last push from the opposing community took place in September.
On other terms, it has been debated whether the EHV-1 vaccine should be included in the veterinary regulations and applied worldwide. However, a proposal for mass vaccination has not been included in the proposed changes to the FEI veterinary regulation despite the significant increase in athletes vaccinating their horses.
According to the FEI, this would require a worldwide vaccination campaign and a greater involvement from national federations. With the current rate of vaccinations, this can only be achieved by 2025.
In the United Kingdom, the British Horseracing Authority has banned racehorses from entering the human food chain, and this has both been welcomed and questioned by the industry. The ban indicates all horses entered to run in any race in Britain must be signed out of the human food chain via their passports, starting the 1st of January 2022. This will also exclude horses from entering the animal food chain in Britain and it applies to all British racing horses trained in the country.
The BHA is looking at ways of applying this rule to international runners, but there is more complexity. The EU legislation covers who has the authority to sign horses out of the food chain, and there are equine passport variations across countries.
The rule reminds the horse world of the importance of a digital equine ID system to track horses to avoid them from being exported abroad for slaughter or being sent to unlicensed slaughterhouses. This practice is a positive step towards improving the welfare of horses.
“Horse meat is a valuable commodity, and where there is money to be made, there are those who will find a way to make it - and animal welfare will not be a consideration.” - Mr Owers, BHA.
Further discussions include the new proposal of adding a widely used herb to the list of prohibited substances. Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus Castus) is used to support hormone levels in horses. This plant that grows in the Mediterranean and parts of Asia contains active ingredients that influence hormonal balance in horses.
This herb is not recommended for pregnant mares as the potential effects on the reproductive system have not been evaluated in pregnant animals. The FEI have determined Chasteberry will continue to be permitted in 2022.
Did you find this article useful and what do you think of the bans taking in place? Do you think top hats should be replaced or not by a protective headgear? Should race horses stay out of the human food chain and would it be better if there was a global EHV-1 vaccine?