Riders warned against using dry ice for cooling horses after video goes viral

The FEI has “strongly recommended” riders do not use dry ice as a cooling agent, following outcry over a video of an endurance horse standing amid dramatic clouds of vapour.

Immediately after the incident in France on May 9, the FEI advised the “possibility” of bringing a case of abuse against the horse’s Spanish rider Arkaitz Arakistain Aristi.

But further investigations have revealed the horse was standing in buckets of water mixed with dry ice, and as the liquid temperature did not drop below 0C, no FEI rules had been broken and no disciplinary case will be pursued.

The FEI did, though, stress it would be harmful if dry ice directly contacted the horse’s skin.

A FEI spokesman said: “The FEI veterinary department stresses that there is no benefit to using dry ice in combination with water; however, it is very clear that the use of dry ice without water is dangerous and, in the event of direct contact with skin and other tissues, could cause freeze burns, which would be a major horse welfare issue and would be a clear breach of the FEI veterinary regulations.

“Due to the associated risks of using dry ice, the FEI veterinary department strongly recommends that it should not be used as a cooling agent.”

At the Castelsagrat 120km FEI ride, Aristi’s crew was filmed using containers emitting a thick mist in the official grooming area. The horse Ambar had both forefeet submerged.

The ground jury did not sanction Aristi on the day but advised the FEI, and sampled Ambar under the FEI anti-doping programme. He was vetted out for lameness at gate 4.

Cooling with ice and water below 0C breaches FEI veterinary regulations, as does using water cooling equipment that FEI veterinary officials cannot lock at freezing point. Cryotherapy is also prohibited at events, and in the five days beforehand.

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There was considerable speculation on social media that liquid nitrogen was involved — so cold it boils at -196 deg C. Several senior vets including David Marlin weighed into refute that on Facebook, and debated the possible merits of using dry ice in water.

The FEI added that that Ambar’s treatment did not classify as a form of prohibited cryotherapy. “We have independent witness statements that have confirmed to us in writing, and this is corroborated by the video footage, that there was water in the buckets. We have also been sent images of the carbonic ice bags by FEI officials, so it is clear that there is no breach of FEI regulations,” the spokesman said.

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