Richard Davison: ‘Did amateur riders put their hobby over the health of others?’ *H&H Plus*


  • Richard Davison shares his thoughts on moral dilemmas for those competing overseas and vaccinating against EHV-1

    JUST when we thought our lives could not become any more dominated by a virus, the equestrian world is hit by another, the equine herpes virus (EHV-1).

    This is not a new virus and, over the years when competing in the USA and other countries, I recall the vaccination being mandatory. However, there is no vaccine to protect against the neurological variant, which can be fatal and has made life a living hell for competitors at Valencia CSI as their sick and dying horses were locked down on-site.

    I hope that those who have returned to the UK, where EHV is currently not an officially notifiable disease, will adhere strictly to the quarantine guidelines, even if only for the sake of everyone else’s horses.

    The vaccine does reduce shedding of the virus, and I can’t help thinking about The Queen’s remark after having her Covid jab – she said the decision to take it was about protecting other people, as much as oneself.

    Like many riders, we at Davison Equestrian have decided to vaccinate our horses solely to minimise transmission of the virus within the competition environment.

    I hope this will serve as a steer for both British Equestrian (BEF) and FEI policymakers when it comes to considering mandatory vaccinations at competitions.

    A moral dilemma

    I WAS struck by a moral dilemma at the start of this year’s Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. I have marvelled at the show’s expansion since first competing there years ago. With more than 1,500 showjumping horses plus their attendants descending on the venue and its neighbouring town, the event is significant for the local economy.

    However this year, due to the threat of hospitalisations and possible loss of life from Covid-19, the local mayor called for the show to be postponed – a call that was disregarded by the organisers. The predicament of my fellow professionals, with large overheads and bills, means that financial survival is a non-stop worry and was the driver for their participation at the show.

    But I could not help pondering how comfortable some of our amateur riders felt about the perception of prioritising a hobby over the health of the local people. In the end the FEI shut down the tour due to the EHV outbreak, and every group was left frustrated.

    A lack of goodwill

    THE downsides of leaving the EU single market and the customs union of the UK equestrian industry’s biggest trading partner should have been obvious. But in the trade agreement, signed shortly before Christmas, there is hope.

    It contains provisions that could reduce some of the barriers to trade we are currently facing. But activating these mechanisms requires the EU and the UK to collaborate in good faith, and this is currently in short supply.

    Lord Frost, who negotiated the agreement, is now charged with co-chairing the roll-out together with his EU counterpart. He has rightly called for goodwill, but while we are waiting for the EU to ratify the agreement, the UK has threatened another unilateral breach of its obligations, which is damaging for us.

    Delays at Calais have been horrendous for competition horses, and I am grateful to my fellow World Horse Welfare trustee, Caroline Nokes MP, for raising this issue in Westminster. In the meantime, I am in contact with the CEO of the Port of Calais, who is committed to horse welfare, and is doing all he can to help.

    The delays will affect both UK and EU-based horses, and a number of us are lobbying our FEI rider clubs and other groups on both sides of the Channel. We need speedy collaboration and action to make things more bearable for the health not only of our horses, but of our industry too.

    New face at the top

    Finally, good luck to Jim Eyre in his new role as CEO of the BEF. We have had enough “musical chairs” at the top of our federation recently, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed Jim is a keeper.

    Also published in H&H 18 March 2021

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