The FEI is preparing for the restart of equestrian competition in mainland Europe following a six-week shutdown owing to the serious outbreak of EHV-1. H&H finds out how it will work, and what safety measures are to be put in place
AS international competition prepares to restart following the suspension owing to the European equine herpes virus (EHV-1) outbreak, a number of preventative measures have been announced to make sure events are “as safe as possible”.
European competitions are scheduled to return from 12 April following a six-week shutdown to control the spread of the outbreak. Following an FEI stakeholder consultation on 24 March during which protocols and mitigation plans for outbreaks were discussed, new requirements have now been announced.
The measures, including some temporary provisions expected to be in place until 30 May, focus on six key areas; preparation of the venue before an event, other pre-event preparation, examination of horses on arrival, on site at event, departure from event, and jurisdiction including the FEI having the right to cancel competitions during an event if an outbreak occurs.
Requirements include organising committees submitting biosecurity and mitigation plans for disease outbreaks to the FEI veterinary department no later than one week before the event, and for events with more than 400 horses stabled overnight, biosecurity measures must be signed off by a independent vet – appointed by the country’s national federation – one week in advance of horse arrivals.
Venue stables must have good ventilation and one-way systems so horses cannot touch noses, and horses who travelled together must be stabled together. It is also recommended vaccinated horses should be stabled separately to those who have not been vaccinated, and isolation areas must not be in the same stable area as non-isolated horses. For competitions with more than 400 horses, negative EHV-1 tests are required before events, which should be loaded to the FEI HorseApp.
Riders or grooms must provide a self-certification form for all horses at the venue, including mandatory temperature monitoring charts for 10 days leading up to the event, and failure to comply will incur a fine of 400 Swiss francs (£306) per horse.
For competitions running over consecutive weeks, such as showjumping tours, where horses are stabled in the same airspace, horses must be tested for EHV-1 every Monday to remain at the venue. Microchips or passports must be scanned using the FEI HorseApp prior to leaving to ensure traceability.
FEI veterinary director Göran Åkerström said the protocols are primarily about preventative measures – but added that in the event of an outbreak, there must be traceability and provisions in place to manage, and shut the outbreak down.
“We clearly need to ensure this type of outbreak never happens again and any in future contained before they can cause the same type of devastating effects that we have seen,” he said.
“We cannot do this on our own, we need a community effort. The measures we have put in place, and especially how effective we will be in implementing those, will depend on our ability as a community to collaborate and fully endorse and implement them in each of our respective areas of responsibility.”
Dr Åkerström added that there has been discussion about introducing mandatory EHV vaccinations but as there is no vaccine that protects against the neurological form of EHV-1, and an ongoing shortage of the vaccine, the FEI does not plan to make vaccination a requirement.
“In Valencia vaccinated horses were very sick and a number died – although fully vaccinated, they still suffered tremendously,” he said. “Only when a vaccine is produced effectively protecting against the neurological form will we consider having mandatory vaccines.”
Events scheduled to take place following the shutdown include Pompadour Horse Trials, France (12–14 April), showjumping in Opglabbeek and Lier, Belgium (15–18 April), and Strzegom Horse Trials, Poland (15–18 April).
On 31 March, organisers of the Spanish Mediterranean Equestrian Tour at Oliva Nova announced the cancellation of the showjumping MET IV tour (13 April–2 May, pictured), owing to the deadlines of the new measures.
“Unfortunately, the deadline to submit the required biosecurity and mitigation plans to the FEI is in less than one week – which includes Easter. This short time frame makes it impossible for us to make the necessary pre-event preparations as described in the measures, and we see no option but to cancel,” said a MET tour spokesman.
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