The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) is to establish a set of specifications for the production of outdoor and indoor footing, following the high injury rate among show jumpers at the Athens Olympics.
Three horses were injured in the ring and a number of others suffered soft tissue injuries after the show jumping competition.
As a result, the FEI formed an independent review body to investigate the causes for the injuries. The committee has just returned its report to the FEI executive board, and has published a list of recommendations to protect the welfare of horses at major championships in future.
“The injuries at and following the Games were considered to be far in excess of the number that could have been injured at an event of this calibre under normal circumstances,” said the chairman of the review committee, Edouard de Rothschild, in his report.
The committee found that a number of factors — including poor watering of the arena, the types of studs and boots used on the horses and increased stress placed on the horses due to highly demanding, technical courses — combined to cause the injuries.
The recommendations have now passed to the FEI’s veterinary and jumping committees for their consideration. They include the introduction of technical and footing experts and stricter rules on footing; more authority for the veterinary commission to examine horses before, during and after an event — including the use of scanning and ultrasound; the keeping of accurate medical records for horses, and a review of the number and size of obstacles and the need for jump-offs.
“The whole idea [for the veterinary recommendations] is prevention — not to create more work and effort. We’re recommending having the option to scan — though we wouldn’t use ultrasound to evaluate every horse,” says Jack Snyder, a member of the review committee and an Olympic treating vet since 1988. “If a bump shows up on a horse’s leg, it would be useful to spot a problem before a catastrophic event.”
The FEI jumping committee is to hold a seminar for footing experts, at which specifications for footing at major championships will be drawn up. The federation will also put together a list of footing experts for use by event organisers.