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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Update on Hypersensitive Disqualification of Canadian Rider Tiffany Foster 's Horse from Olympics for Cut on Coronet

It's the story that has stayed on everyone's mind. Less than an hour before she was to mount up and ride in her first Olympic Games, Canadian team member Tiffany Foster found out that FEI officials had declared her horse unfit to compete.

The judgement was based on the FEI's carefully-crafted policy on what is called a horse's "hypersensitivity" to stimulus on the lower legs. A small cut on the coronet (hair line between hoof and pastern) had caused the horse to react to examination.

According to reports, a thermal imaging examination confirmed the clinical exam: an area of heat could also have been evident on the diagnostic images.

The test was designed to identify horses that had been deliberately hypersensitized. A horse with sore pasterns will protect the painful area as it goes over a jump and is less likely to rub or knock an obstacle.

Even though the FEI said that no wrongdoing had taken place, Tiffany was out and the Games went on. At a press conference, her mentor, 2008 Olympic Individual Gold Medalist Eric Lamaze, lashed out at the FEI hypersensitivity protocol. Later, he lashed out at his own national federation, even though Canada did appeal the ruling immediately.

US veterinarian Kent Allen of Virginia 
quaified the disqualification statement
at the Olympics press conference; 

he is the FEI's Foreign Vet Delegate.
(Erin GIlmore photo)
According to FEI policy, there is no appeal on veterinary cases.

FEI Foreign Veterinary Delegate Kent Allen was on hand to explain the FEI’s decision during the press conference. He confirmed that 86 Olympic horses were monitored on the first day of the competition, and 70 were monitored the second day. Victor was the only horse found to have abnormally excessive evidence of hypersensitivity.

“The equine Olympic athlete is the most closely monitored athlete at the Olympic Games, and the FEI’s mandate is for the welfare of the horse and the well being of the horse,” Allen stated. “It’s very regrettable in this circumstance, that the horse was simply too hypersensitive in that leg to continue on.”

Lamaze lashed out: "This is a complete miscarriage of justice,” he said. “We all know why they use the test and we all understand it. This has nothing to do with this rule."

On Tuesday, August 7, the Canadian federation issued a brief statement accepting the FEI judgment. Those were fighting words to the ears of Lamaze. He said he would simply not ride for Canada again unless the national authorities showed support for Tiffany Foster in this situation.

Unrest in the Canadian camp after Foster's disqualification (Erin Gilmore photo)
Eyebrows went up around the world this afternoon when Canada issued a new statement on the disqualification of Tiffany Foster and the system used to do it. Here are their new words:

Canada's Clarification Statement

August 8, 2012, London, England - Equine Canada has issued the following further statements regarding the International Equestrian Federation's (FEI) hypersensitivity testing protocol.

"Equine Canada agrees that the FEI's hypersensitivity protocol is in place to protect the welfare of the horse and the fairness of our sport," states Mr. Gallagher.

"Victor sustained a superficial cut on the front of the left front coronary band," states Canadian Olympic Team Veterinarian for Jumping Dr. Sylvie Surprenant. "In our opinion the horse was fit to compete as he showed no signs of lameness.

"However the FEI hypersensitivity protocol is such that if the horse is sensitive to the touch, regardless of the cause, the horse is disqualified. While the FEI rules for the hypersensitivity protocol were followed, we believe that there should be a review of this protocol."

"We feel that further discussion of the hypersensitivity protocol needs to take place in order to ensure a balance is reached between the philosophical intent and the real-world application. Canada looks forward to playing a role in those discussions along with other nations within the FEI family," states Mr. Gallagher

"Equine Canada wants to make it clear that there is absolutely no accusation of any wrongdoing on the part of our athlete Tiffany Foster or any member of the Canadian Team. Equine Canada fully stands behind and supports our athlete Tiffany Foster, as well as our entire team.

Everyone at Equine Canada and the Canadian Olympic Team are disheartened and extremely disappointed over the premature ending of Tiffany Foster's Olympic dream, and remain fiercely proud of both her incredible sportsmanship and athletic achievements," states Mr. Gallagher.

(end of statement)

Tiffany Silver and Eric Lamaze, teammates for Canada's showjumping squad in London. Lamaze  went into London as the defending individual Olympic gold medalist. (Erin Gilmore photo)

Will the new Canadian statement appease Lamaze and bring him home happy or will he be out shopping for a new nation's flag? Will a new chapter open in the ongoing saga of the FEI's hypersensitization protocol?

The Olympics just aren't over yet.

To learn more:
FEI explanation of hypersensitivity testing

Thanks to Erin Gilmore of for her photos from the press conference and quotes.

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1 comment:

lita dove said...

I hope Eric Lamaze's passion ignites the entire IJRC and their sponsors and supporters to request a review of the hypersensitivity rule.

It is badly written and poorly used.
If we live by rule of law--innocent until PROVEN guilty-- then that needs be the standard also for horse sport.

The designation of hypersensitivity lies way too entirely in the subjective perception of a few human beings.That simply cannot continue.