Proposed FEI ‘Blood Rule’ Causes Controversy

The proposed rule suggests horses with blood anywhere on their bodies during an dressage test be excused.
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A new proposed Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) rule about the presence of blood on a horse during high-level dressage events is causing significant controversy. The governing body for international equestrian events issued a statement on the FEI website on Oct. 19 stating its position on the new so-called "blood rule," which is up for vote by National Federations Nov. 11-14 during the FEI General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The rule proposes that horses appearing with blood anywhere on their bodies–not just their mouths, as has been previously suggested by some media outlets–during a dressage event should be excused from the arena immediately, according to Trond Asmyr, FEI dressage director. At most levels, the horse and rider team would be eliminated.

However, in higher level events (which include the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, continental championships at Grand Prix level, and World Cup finals) the horse would be inspected by an FEI veterinarian upon leaving the arena. If the bleeding has stopped, if the wound is minor, and if the bleeding is determined to not be the result of a welfare issue, the horse and rider may return to the arena to either restart or complete the competition (with judging picking up again where the event left off), Asmyr said of the proposed rule. An example of a minor nonwelfare-related wound would be an insect bite, he added.

"The current rules do not specifically mention blood and, although it is covered in the General Rules about the welfare of the horse, the Dressage Committee felt that clarification would be beneficial," Asmyr said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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