US Equestrian announces updated horse welfare guidelines

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US Equestrian, the governing body of equestrian sports in the United States, released new penalty guidelines for rule violations related to horse welfare and safety last week.

The penalty guidelines cover several concerns, including: improper use of whips, spurs, and bits; use of illegal equipment; cruelty, abuse, and neglect, which also includes some drugging cases; and death or maiming of a horse, whether intentional or unintentional.

In a statement released with the new guidelines, US Equestrian explains the impetus behind the focus on consequences for welfare violations:

In the event that a member violates any of the Rules covering welfare and safety of a horse, and this violation ends in a hearing before the Federation’s Hearing Committee, any subsequent penalty issued should be appropriately severe, as a case of a welfare or safety violation against a horse is one of the most egregious violations under the Federation’s Rules. Previously imposed penalties in cases of welfare and safety violations are no longer sufficient in today’s cases. It is important that the Federation’s penalties reflect the severity of the violation.

These new guidelines aren’t a rule change or a mandate; they have been created to provide a template for Hearing Panels when a violation has occurred. The Hearing Panel may opt for a lower or higher penalty than what the guidelines suggest depending on the specific circumstances of the violation.

The new guidelines, which take effect on September 1, 2017, are outlined below.

Categories of Rule Violations

I. Excessive Use of Whip or Spurs and Improper Use of Bits

  • Excessive or intentional use of whip or spurs or improper use of a bit to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony.
  • First Offense – Suspension of 6 months and $6,000.00 fine
  • Second Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
  • Third Offense – Suspension of 24 months and $24,000.00 fine
  • If there are multiple horses involved, the penalty should apply to each horse and run consecutively
  • II. Illegal Equipment

    • Use of illegal equipment with no intent to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony or which doesn’t cause harm or pain to a horse/pony.
    • Discretion of the Hearing Panel
    • Intentional use of illegal equipment to cause harm or pain to a horse/pony
    • First Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
    • Second Offense – Suspension of 18 months and $18,000.00 fine
    • Third Offense – Suspension of 36 months and fine of $36,000 and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
  • If there are multiple horses involved, the penalty should apply to each horse and run consecutively
  • III. Cruelty/Abuse/Neglect

    • Includes excessive riding, lunging, training and showing, deprivation of water and feed, striking with an object, unintentional death, and violations of the 12 hour injection rule involving forbidden substances for purpose of competition.
    • First Offense – Suspension of 12 months and $12,000.00 fine
    • Second Offense – Suspension of 24 months and $24,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
    • Third Offense – Suspension of 60 months and fine of $60,000 and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
  • If there are multiple horses involved, the penalty should apply to each horse and run consecutively
  • IV. Death and Maiming

    • Includes acts in which the death of a horse occurred, but was not intended
    • First Offense – Suspension of 36 months and $36,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
    • Second Offense – Suspension of 60 months and $60,000.00 fine and must appear before the Hearing Panel and provide proof of rehabilitation before being eligible to regain membership
    • Third Offense – Lifetime ban
  • If there are multiple horses involved, the penalty should apply to each horse and run consecutively
  • V. Intentional Death for Financial or Other Means

    • Lifetime ban

    * Reciprocity of Criminal Charges – In cases of reciprocity of criminal charges, the minimum USEF penalty should at least mirror the criminal penalty with latitude given to impose more severe penalties.

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