‘There is no place in our sport for abuse’: rules to be strengthened after ‘abhorrent’ training videos

  • United States Equestrian (USEF) is proposing to strengthen its rules to cover horse abuse outside competition, and mandate reporting of such incidents.

    USEF released an extraordinary proposed rule change days after it emerged that US rider Cesar Parra was being investigated in relation to videos of what USEF described as “abhorrent abusive training techniques”.

    The federation said one proposed change, submitted in September, had the intention of “increasing the scope of jurisdiction of USEF to pursue investigation and disciplinary action for reported horse abuse occurring outside of the competition environment”.

    The extraordinary change “is intended to increase the scope of jurisdiction for equine abuse, further define actions that are considered equine abuse, require mandatory reporting of equine abuse, and amplify the ability for competition management and licensed officials to impose disciplinary actions during a competition for matters of equine abuse”.

    The proposal states: “Vital to the continued success of a partnership between equestrian athletes and their horses is the respect and wellbeing of the horses. There is no place in equestrian sport for abuse towards our equine partners.”

    It adds that “distasteful” videos and pictures shared on social media have made people “question how our horses are cared for in our sport”, adding: “In an effort to protect our sport, and our horses, we need to act now.”

    The rule change, which would apply from 1 January 2024, would mean USEF could take disciplinary action against anyone who abuses a horse at any time, or in any place, adding that enforcement would be based on USEF members who witness abuse.

    Read the full proposal

    The rule adds to the definitions of what constitutes abuse, and also states that those who witness it must report it, to officials if at a competition, or to USEF. It would allow officials to take “swift action”, such as issuing a written warning or eliminating a combination, if abuse occurs at a competition.

    A USEF spokesman told H&H the timing of the proposal should allow plenty of opportunity for member and stakeholder feedback.

    “Social licence is a vitally important issue for our industry, and further oversight of training practices outside of competition has been an important topic under consideration,” she said. “The Cesar Parra concerns are an example of why this is an important issue to address.

    “USEF takes horse abuse very seriously. Horses are our trusted partners in sport and in life. The goal of the extraordinary rule change is to ensure that USEF has broader oversight of horse welfare outside of competition.”

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