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October 5, 2010

The HSUS Calls for More Safeguards for Horses in Eventing Competitions

For years, The Humane Society of the United States has encouraged officials overseeing the equestrian sport of eventing to develop and implement safety measures in the cross country phase to protect the welfare of equine athletes. Although no horses perished during the cross country competition at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, injuries sustained by three horses illustrate the need for greater safeguards to protect horses in eventing.

At the event, held Saturday in Lexington, Ky., four horses experienced falls which resulted in disqualification; three horses sustained non-fatal injuries. HSUS staff members witnessed several of these incidents, and met with FEI and USEF officials to discuss them.

“While improvements have been made and we're relieved no horses perished, the international eventing community must continue to put the welfare of the horse first in the sport, ahead of the goals and pursuits of individual competitors, or the success of national eventing teams,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for The HSUS.  “Riders should be encouraged to always hold the safety of their horses paramount, and officials should be trained and empowered to disqualify entrants who appear to be riding dangerously out of control.”

In a meeting with The HSUS, eventing officials described the changes implemented in recent years to make the sport of eventing safer for its equine and human athletes, and acknowledged that even further improvements are needed.

Recent advancements include the use of obstacles that break away when a horse hits it with enough force (greatly reducing the chance of fatal rotational falls), and the use of warnings or disqualifications for riders who display reckless riding on the course.

Organizers view the disqualification rate at this event as a hopeful sign that new, tougher rules are causing entries to be eliminated from competition before potential accidents happen, thus reducing the number of injuries.  Nineteen of 79 entries—24 percent—failed to complete the WEG course due to refusals, penalties or falls.

These recent changes, which encourage responsible stewardship and hold exhibitors and officials more accountable for horses’ safety, are gaining wider acceptance among the majority of international delegations represented in the sport.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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