A new equestrian ethics committee could be in the pipeline after suggestions from dressage riders.

The International Dressage Riders Club (IDRC) has written to the FEI proposing that the committee be set up to take a proactive approach in dealing with the “inevitable welfare issues that continue to arise in equestrian sport”.

IDRC secretary general and rider Wayne Channon told H&H that he believes there is a “great need” for a collective, authoritative voice when it comes to thoroughly investigating and responding to welfare allegations.

“Dressage is the platform as it is at the sharp end of ethics, but ultimately we want the committee to cover all equestrian disciplines,” he said.

“The animal welfare groups are constantly scrutinising what we do and we want to be able to take a proactive — rather than a reactive — approach to dealing with situations. We have to be able to react to negative images, posts and videos with as much expertise and sound knowledge in our armoury as possible.”

The IDRC proposes that the committee be made up not only of experts from each of the main disciplines — dressage, eventing and showjumping — but also of scientists who are specialists in the field of equine performance.

“Like the other sports committees, the ethics committee should meet on a regular basis to discuss and deal with issues as they arise,” continued Wayne, who also believes the group will yield wider benefits.

“We can use the opportunity as a platform to enhance our knowledge and investigate more thoroughly the most important veterinary and welfare issues,” he said.

“For example, when [former FEI president] Princess Haya defended the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] in competition [in 2009], a huge amount of research went into finding out the exact effect that administering varying quantities had on horses’ musculo-skeletal systems.

“As a result we learnt a great deal about how NSAIDs work that we didn’t know before. This sort of research would probably never have been carried out without the mooted rule change as a catalyst.”

The IDRC Board is in the process of finalising a proposal to submit to the FEI.

Frank Kemperman of the FEI dressage committee said at the FEI sport forum (27-28 April) that he would welcome any proposals

“The FEI equestrian community integrity unit (ECIU) has been a permanent fixture since 2010 and protects the FEI’s integrity principles across the board, including across all of our disciplines,” added Sabrina Zeender, FEI secretary general.

“We work very closely with the International Dressage Riders Club and, as with all the organisations with which we have an MOU, we are always happy to look at any proposals the IDRC puts forward.”

Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 May 2015