The FEI said the two US organisations have breached the terms of the agreement, but the reining bodies dispute this
British and European reiners have come out in force against the “horrifying” decision to allow horses to compete on a sedative in the US.
H&H reported on the recently approved changes made by the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) to its animal welfare and medications policy to allow romifidine to be given to horses 30 minutes before a competition (news, 22 September).
The move was described as “as outrageous as it is wrong” by World Horse Welfare, and reiners outside the US have also spoken in the strongest terms against the change.
British Reining chair Francesca Sternberg told H&H the European NRHA subsidiary has its own rules “and specifically our own medication policy”, and that competitions held in European countries fall under the auspices of each national federation and the European drugs policy.
“The policy is very, very tight,” she said. “They’re basically FEI rules.
“The European association held an extraordinary meeting, and said we want to make it absolutely clear that all Europe will pull together and follow our own policy, which is zero tolerance and high penalties [for doping offences], and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Mrs Sternberg added that sanctions for doping offences include bans, loss of titles and prize money as well as “naming and shaming”, as in other disciplines, but contrary to past practice in the NRHA.
She said British Reining is among the bodies that have contacted the NRHA in protest at the romifidine decision.
“We are only a small affiliate, but we have already lost one NRHA show as a direct result of this policy publication, and our members are boycotting entering the NRHA classes at next week’s National NRHA Championship show,” the letter reads.
“As British Reining, we are regulated by British Equestrian and have always been fully committed to the wellbeing of the mind, body and spirit of the horse. We believe and support clean sport in every aspect and historically have tested all our main events to maintain the integrity of this. We are greatly surprised and saddened that NRHA would even consider adding this to their welfare and medication policy. Our governing body, British Equestrian, has requested a meeting with our chairman as soon as possible, which will probably be to discuss our disassociation. This will have dire implications for us.
“We hope that common sense, and love for the horse and discipline will prevail, resulting in this decision being reversed as soon as possible.”
Mrs Sternbery added that “as horse people, we are indebted to our animals”.
“It’s an integral part of our ethics that their spirit, health and welfare is at the highest possible level, or we shouldn’t ride them,” she said.
“The change doesn’t come in till next year, so I’m very much hoping they’ll rescind it. I don’t know why they’ve taken that route, but hope very much they’ll reverse it, sooner rather than later, so it never takes effect.
“We’re squeaky clean in Europe, but we’re being tarred by the same brush, and it’s just horrendous. Other countries have written to the NRHA, too, as this is discrediting our discipline. We’re all upset about it.”
An NRHA spokesman told H&H the British Reining letter had been forwarded to the board of directors.
“Any communication received in our office is being responded to and forwarded on to the leadership for their consideration,” she added.
“We have a regular meeting scheduled later in the year for the fourth quarter. There are several conversations and topics being discussed as we lead into that meeting, but the agenda has yet to be set.”
Under the rule change the drug, which is intended to be a “sedative to facilitate handling, examination and treatment, and as a premedication agent prior to general anaesthesia”, may be given at 0.5cc, and must be submitted on the mediations report form.
The NRHA previously told H&H the aim was in the long term to move to a position that does not allow the drug, and that its policy now features sanctions including disqualification and fines up to $30,000, whereas previously “almost all violations resulted in a warning letter”.
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