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The WoSJ-team: Cleaning up the contamination mess

Wednesday, 05 June 2019
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Whoever authored the FEI recommendations on contamination prevention has clearly not attended the same shows the rest of us do on a regular basis. 

To reduce the risk of contamination, the FEI is asking the riders to set their management standards par excellence. That might work. As long as you stay at home. The problem is, most competition horses don’t stay at home. They travel around, from show to show and from box to box. 

According to the FEI Stewards Manual Jumping, show stabling must “Have clean yards, adequate manure disposal”. A minimum requirement is that stabling is “Cleaned and disinfected prior to horses’ arrival”.

About stabling security, the following is stated in the FEI Stewards Manual Jumping

“Access to the stable area must be controlled and restricted.”

“Strict stable security is of paramount importance. Admission to the stables is limited during an event. The only persons authorised by the OC to enter the stable area are the following so long as they are is possession of the required accreditations.”

“A control system must operate at all entrance gates to the stable area so that there is an efficient and reliable method of identifying those who enter and leave the stable area at any time.”

Go to any venue that frequently organizes two- and three-star shows in big showjumping countries like Belgium, France, Germany and Netherlands – or any tour in the south of Europe for that matter – and you’ll find that many of them don’t meet the standards laid down by the FEI on stabling and stabling security.

A few weeks ago, a rider arrived at a two-star show. Rather than unloading the horses, he had to leave them in the truck while mucking out. The boxes were still full of old manure. And certainly not disinfected. 

Just a few meters away from the same boxes, in a big, open space, the grooms and riders emptied their wheelbarrows. With a stroke from the wind the manure, shavings and straw would all whirl up and quickly find its way to the nearby stables. And as usual at any show, dogs ran free everywhere (in huge numbers), peeing on whatever bale of hay they could find at each stable corner. The stable security was at a zero with no control entering the stables. During day, anyone could walk in and out as they pleased.

This is not an unfortunate one-time experience. This is the reality grooms and riders have to deal with at many shows. And it’s a far cry from the standards in the Stewards Manual. 

Parallel to this reality, riders are being asked to “never put a horse into a stable that is not clean”, “only use feed troughs or bowls that can be properly cleaned”, “keep samples of hay, feed, supplements and any corresponding batch numbers”, “store feed carefully” and “check for environmental contaminants” – routines asked of them to supposedly help reduce the risk of contamination, or that possibly could help them prove their own innocence in case of a positive test caused by contamination. 

It all feels a bit like observing a parent, asking their one child to keep hers or his room to an immaculate standard then punish them if they don’t – and at the same time let their other child paint the walls with poop without reacting. 

If the FEI wants clean sport, they better get out there to all those shows given the approval stamp from an office in Lausanne – and bring a wheelbarrow and wash bucket. 


- The WoSJ-team - 


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