Riding Club members appeal for change to flu vaccination rules

  • Riding club members in East Sussex are campaigning for a change to current British Riding Club (BRC) rules on equine flu vaccinations, claiming they are unfair and outdated.
    BRC operates a “zero tolerance policy”, sending home any horse entered for a BRC competition that does not have up-to-date flu vaccinations.
    But Rother Valley Riding Club members say this rule is too harsh for amateur competitors and want rules brought into line with other major organisations such as British Dressage and the British Show Jumping Association.
    These organisations recommend horses are vaccinated because some venues require it, but do not make it compulsory.
    Lapsed flu certificates have resulted in several Rother Valley RC competitors being turned away recently.
    Sarah Baldwin, vice-chairman of the club, said: “Vaccination is something we all believe in, but the rule is outdated and it is frustrating to have to start the whole programme again because of a minor discrepancy years ago.”
    Vet Karen Coumbe told H&H: “If your horse’s vaccination goes over its due date, you will need to start the course again if you are competing and will incur costs and extra injections.
    “Medically it may make little difference if a vaccine is administered a few days over the calendar year, but organisations must have rules and set cut-off points.”
    She advised all riders to check their vaccination records.
    Since February, 120 members from 10 riding clubs mostly in areas 10 and 11 and organised by Rother Valley, have written to BRC to appeal for a change to the rules.
    Lesley Reed of Rother Valley RC added: “We are not saying people should not vaccinate — merely stating that the requirements in order to compete at BRC area competitions are frankly ridiculous in this day and age.”
    But BRC chairman Laurie Punnett told H&H: “Only a small group disagrees with the rules.
    “Every couple of years the subject is discussed with experts to ensure our rules are appropriate. With 475 clubs, the fairest way to operate is to remove any grey areas.”
    Two weeks ago the British Horse Society and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Science issued a warning to horse owners in central Scotland to be vigilant and vaccinate their horses due to an increased number of reported flu cases in the area.
    British Eventing insists all horses who compete are fully vaccinated, and horses competing in International Equestrian Federation (FEI) competitions must be vaccinated every six months.
    Racehorses also have to be vaccinated to comply with British Horseracing Authority rules.

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (26 June, ’08)

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