The Alliance for Horse Welfare in Sport (AHWS) Calls for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) To Uphold the 46 Recommendations of The French National Assembly to
MAKE PARIS 2024 THE OLYMPIC GAMES OF HORSE WELFARE
OVERVIEW & SUMMARY OF THE 46 RECOMMENDATIONS
This blog is an excerpt from the PARIS 2024 HORSE WELFARE CAMPAIGN MAGAZINE which is free to download and read online.
Part 1: Introduction and Context
The equestrian events of the Tokyo Olympics saw incidents in several disciplines. These incidents triggered some very strong reactions from the media and spectators, with a section of the population asking for a ban of all equestrian competitions from the Olympic Games, considering them to be practices harmful to the well-being of horses.
It, therefore, seems essential to us to think about possible improvements, for the horses on the one hand, but also to ensure a serene future for these equestrian sports.
The equestrian events of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which will take place in Versailles, must be a model in terms of equine welfare.
The main incidents of the Tokyo Olympics – link here to the media reaction, the citizen reaction, the issues and the response from the authorities concerned.
Part 2: Consideration of equine welfare at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The welfare of horses has been very well studied in recent years. The ‘Charter and Good Practice Guide for Equine Welfare’ published by the Fédération Nationale du Cheval, the Association Vétérinaire Équine Française, the Fédération Française d’Equitation, France Galop, the Groupement Hippique National and Le Trot, has been ratified by most of the sector’s stakeholders in France.
In addition, several theses and studies on equine welfare have been published by the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), by the Institut français du cheval et de l’équitation (IFCE) and by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and others are currently in progress. IFCE regularly publishes books and fact sheets and hosts online conferences on the subject.Positions for equine welfare managers exist within the Association Vétérinaire Equine Française (AVEF), the National Council of the Veterinary Order, and veterinary schools which now provide courses on equine welfare.
In addition, there are many private initiatives emerging within the equine industry, which demonstrates an enthusiasm for this subject and its growing importance in the sector, such as the EquuRES Event label, which is a collective approach, legally supported by the Horse Council of Normandie, which brings together many representatives of the sector such as SHF, FNCH, France Galop, Le Trot, Pôle Hippolia, FFE, RESPE, AVEF, French League for the Protection of Horses, IFCE, GHN, FNC and which is recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which also want to be those of reason and moderation in terms of environmental impact, can therefore become an example for the following Olympic Games by putting equine well-being at the heart of its concerns.
SUMMARY OF THE 46 RECOMMENDATIONS
I. THE EQESTRIAN FACILITIES
Provide relaxation areas (grazing areas, lungeing and exercise areas, galloping track, paddocks, etc.) in sufficient quantity and surface area to be accessible to horses as needed, while respecting a controlled environment that guarantees the safety and biosecurity that are essential in competition.
Ensure that horses are housed in boxes that are large enough (4 m sides minimum), high enough, well ventilated, even air-conditioned (according to FEI rules), with a comfortable, non-slip and easy-to-clean flooring that can accommodate the bedding that is familiar to each horse.
Ensure a sufficient supply of hay (roughage) to allow feeding several times a day, even ad libitum, and according to the needs of each horse.
III. MONITORING & COMPLIANCE
Strengthen the surveillance of control teams already provided for by the FEI, in particular, with regard to the alert criteria in terms of health, well-being or dangerous riding practices.
Set up a “Welfare Committee”, made up of independent experts authorised to move freely throughout the Olympic site of the equestrian events, as part of a special “Equine Welfare at the Olympic Games” mission.
Remind participants and inform the public that the entire equestrian competition precinct is under 24/7 surveillance by purposely trained veterinarians and stewards, and that recordings of the video surveillance is undertaken by an independent company, to any consultations on request, in particular that of the “Welfare Committee”
Apply the existing rule which states that when leaving the arena or competition area at the end of the events: no one can access the horse before it is checked by the FEI steward in charge.
IV. TACK & ARTIFICIAL AIDS
Improve the controls against the excessive tightening of nosebands and curb chains: Provide a more calibrated check, preformed randomly during training sessions and systematically when entering or leaving each event, using a 1.5 cm ISES taper gauge placed on the nasal bones (which allow one adult finger to slide between the noseband strap and the hard nasal bone) and apply a penalty in the event of an infringement.
Review the list of tack which, by its creative design or manufacture, can cause harm and discomfort to the horse, and prohibit its use in competition, in particular nosebands that increase the capacity to tighten (crank, lever, grackle, double, etc.) as well as flash nosebands in all disciplines: Create a positive list of authorized nosebands.
Prohibit the use of elevator/gag bits on cross country, particularly when combined with a grackle or flash noseband.
Prohibit the use of tandem/combination bits, bits with twisted or double mouthpieces, and all bits that do not align with equine welfare, and create a list of authorized mouthpieces.
Recommendation # 11:
Prohibit the use of martingales in combination with an elevator (gag) bit throughout the entire Olympic Games grounds.
Prohibit the use of running reins (draw reins) throughout the entire Olympic Games precinct.
Prohibit the fitting of tendon boots on the hindlegs by extending the FEI rules already in place for young horses, to all horses in all disciplines. Increase controls of the tightness of fetlock boots and review their authorization, to reduce their use.
Organise a table top check of the tack and protective equipment of each horse with video recording, and before the events.
Prohibit the use of the whip more than once per event and more than twice during the warm-up. The use of a whip more than once per event and twice during warm-up will result in a sanction or even disqualification. Video surveillance used as evidence if necessary.
Authorise riding without spurs in dressage, as is the case in all events.
Prohibit belly bands.
Systematically check the conformity of the rider’s artificial aids (spurs, whip), as well as the horse’s tack and protective equipment, as provided for in the regulations.
V. VETERINARY CARE & CHECKS
Remind everyone that the fight against doping is the priority of all international competitions and that the rules prohibit the use of horses who have undergone any type of neurectomy, at any level, whether chemical or surgical.
Increase the random use of hyposensitivity, hypersensitivity and thermography tests to check at least 10% of the horses after each event.
Conduct longitudinal monitoring of horses in preparation for the Olympic Games and provide for anti-doping samples between 1 month and 15 days before the veterinary visit prior to the events.
Prohibit all intra-articular injections, whatever the nature of the product injected, 14 days before the official start of the competition and until the end of the event, with no possibility of exceptions on this rule.
Impose the maintenance of the FEI Medication Logbook (register of the care and treatment administered to the horse throughout their career) and present it at the pre-event veterinary control.
Ensure that all medication brought in by the attending and/or team veterinarians are properly controlled on arrival and on departure, and are traced by keeping a controlled register, administered exclusively in the clinic and only when necessary by authorised attending veterinarians under the responsibility of the FEI Veterinary Commission.
Expand the call for tenders and increase the number of analysis laboratories for the Olympic Games, in addition to the five establishments already selected by the FEI and, if necessary, provide for a comparative test phase.
Mandate vaccination against rhinopneumonitis (Equine Herpes virus) in accordance with the protocol validated by the responsible veterinary authorities, this is in addition to the existing regulatory mandate for equine influenza vaccination as a condition of entry into the Olympic Games precinct.
Remove from competition any horses with a medical history that is not compatible with an optimal state of health (e.g. a history of bone, ligament or muscle injury resulting in long periods of inactivity), which is necessary for participation in the Olympic Games. This optimal state of health will have to be verified in advance by the FEI Veterinarians.
Systematise the video recording of veterinary controls (pre-competition checks and sensitivity tests) to enable viewing the slow motion control on request in case of suspected lameness, in the event of a dispute or subsequent accident, and for educational purposes.
Impose the immediate stopping of a ride at the slightest trace of blood on the horse and eliminate the horse from the rest of the competition.
Allow horses and their teams to arrive at the pre-competition stables in the Olympic Games precinct at least 15 days before the competition, giving them time to rest after transport and acclimatise to the conditions before the competition begins.
Enforce the prohibition of intentional or unintentional infliction of unnecessary suffering or discomfort, and of an overly constrained posture or frame.
Prohibit neck flexions placing the nose behind the vertical (hyperflexion) throughout the Olympic grounds and apply sanctions with immediate effect for all equestrian disciplines.
VII. SHOW JUMPING
Return to the pre-Tokyo Olympic Games show jumping format of 4 rider-horse pairs per team, with a drop-score.
Accept the French Equestrian Federation’s (FFE) request to reschedule the individual event after the team events.
Organise events involving show jumping in daylight, while avoiding the hottest periods of the day.
Consider changes to the schedule depending on the weather.
Improve the protection of horses by fully checking their clinical condition before deciding whether or not to allow them entry to the Olympic Games.
Continue to support equipment manufacturers who work on horse protection as well as those who work on rider protection.
Collaborate on the development of better leg protection for horses for 2024.
Equip the cross-country course with 100% frangible obstacles designed to collapse in the event of a fall or impact.
Check that the design of the obstacles complies with the regulations and that the profile, the angle of attack, the top or any other area does not have any right angles or protruding parts.
Assess the quality of the cross-country course surface using validated measuring tools and test new, patented equipment for the evaluation of cross-country course surfaces in the various equestrian disciplines prior to the events.
Implement all FEI safety and welfare rules for the Pentathlon Equestrian event and take into consideration the feedback from the working group involving the FEI and the FEI Veterinary Commission.
Assign a different horse to each rider to avoid multiple rounds.
Draw lots for the horse 24 hours before the event, so that every rider-horse pair can get to know each other.
Lower the height of the obstacles to 110 cm maximum.
X. MAKE THE PARIS 2024 OLYMPIC GAMES THE EQUINE WELFARE GAMES
Create and apply an “Equine Welfare” scoring for the Olympic Games, explaining it to the media and the general public as a ranking for “benevolent sport”.
Use the evaluation frameworks validated by the equine industry to award an “Equine Welfare” score at the Olympic Games, and entrust this mission to the “Welfare Committee” composed of independent experts who will carry out their work on site and via video surveillance.
Make the Paris 2024 Olympic Games the Olympic Games of equine welfare, by applying the Equine Welfare Charter and Good Practice Guide produced by the FNC (Federation Nationale du Cheval), l’AVEF (Association Vétérinaire Equine Française), FFE (Fédération Française d’Équitation), France Galop, the GHN (Groupement Hippique National) and Le Trot.
The respect and well-being of horses entered in competitions are increasingly scrutinized by animal welfare organisations, the public and industry players.
The Tokyo Olympics have given a very bad image to the general public on these subjects.
The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be particularly observed and must therefore be irreproachable in the management of equine well-being. Many of the recommendations in this report depend on the evolution of the rules issued by the FEI for application by the FFE.
It, therefore, seems essential to us that the 2024 Olympic Committee take strong measures now alongside the FEI and the FFE to guarantee the sustainability of this sport and that societal acceptance of the constraints imposed on equine athletes can be in line with the evolution of our society which appears more and more sensitive to the respect of animal welfare.
These recommendations will probably seem excessive to some professionals and insufficient to some animalists. This undoubtedly means that the cursor is well placed, reasonable and without excess, a balance which would allow the horses, the riders, the teams, the organizers and France to experience the wonderful Paris 2024 Olympic Games, placed under the banner of horse welfare.
This blog is an excerpt from the PARIS 2024 HORSE WELFARE CAMPAIGN MAGAZINE which is free to download and read online.