As I’m sure everyone has seen, another of Marilyn Little’s horses was seen bleeding from the mouth around the cross-country course at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International this weekend. Specifically, it was RF Scandalous, who won the CCI3* event and USEF National Championship.
I want to start by saying, this is extremely alarming. Any time horse welfare is potentially in danger, it is something to be taken very seriously. I don’t want to discuss the ML side of the equation in this post, I want to discuss how Federations can address this.
Currently, the FEI rule on blood for eventing (526.4) is as follows:
“Blood on Horses may be an indication of abuse of the Horse and must be reviewed case by case by the Ground Jury.
In minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding on limbs, after investigation the Ground Jury may authorise the Athlete to continue.”
The case this weekend was reviewed by the ground jury, with input from the Veterinary Delegate to which Christian Landolt, the President of the Ground Jury commented, “Fence 20 was the first time we got a report that there may have been some blood visible. Nothing before. A colleague of mine from the ground jury saw it at fence 22 and confirmed that there was some blood, but it wasn’t anything unduly. The two [Technical Delegates] were at fence 23 and 24 confirmed. At the finish the vet was informed, and on inspection she saw nothing. There was no open wound.”
The rule makes it a complete judgement call, and therefore very subjective. This is very much unlike other FEI disciplines, like jumpers or dressage, where any sight of blood calls for instant elimination. Is it time for eventing to adopt the same objective views of blood during competition?
An obvious downside would be that many whose horses get small injuries on course will be penalized, but the flip side of the coin is that any potential cases of abuse will be punished immediately.
Besides being subjective, the rule is also very ambiguous, with no exact protocol for how the Ground Jury should react to a situation like this, i.e. when do they pull them up? Do they have to pull the rider up? etc.
So what do you think? Do we need a black & white blood rule in eventing like other disciplines have? Should we introduce more exact protocol for visible blood at competition? Should the rules change after this scenario at all?
*As a side note, I would like to say that Fair Hill fell under FEI jurisdiction. National competitions (think, Advanced & Intermediate) fall under USEF jurisdiction. USEF is responsible for the licencing of officials and enforcement of their national rules. The USEA does not license officials, have rules [we turn to USEF Rules for Eventing] or enforce those rules.