The 2021 FEI World Cup Finals for dressage and jumping were canceled on March 12 after the Fédération Equestre Internationale extended the shutdown of all international events in mainland Europe until April 11 due to the ongoing outbreak of the neurological form of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1). The FEI World Cup Finals were scheduled to take place March 31-April 4 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
This is the second year the finals will not take place, following the cancellation of the 2020 Finals in Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FEI previously announced a 28-day shutdown on March 1. The decision to extend the shutdown by two weeks, which aims to minimize the further spread of the very aggressive strain of the virus, was unanimously approved at an emergency FEI Executive Board meeting on March 12. The extended lockdown applies to all FEI disciplines.
The extended lockdown applies to all countries that have international scheduled events through April 11—Austria, Belgium, Spain, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. The FEI again strongly recommends that all national federations in mainland Europe cancel their national events in order to minimize horse movement.
“The extension of the lockdown is difficult for everyone, and the loss of the FEI World Cup Finals for a second year is particularly devastating, especially for the qualified athletes and for our loyal top partner Longines,” said FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez.
“We cannot eradicate EHV as it is endemic in many countries, but we need to work together to minimize the transmission of this particular strain, which has already caused the death of 12 horses in Europe. All of the original in-contact horses from Valencia [Spain], Vejer de la Frontera [Spain] and Doha [Qatar] are already blocked on the FEI Database, but the whole community needs to be on the alert and monitoring their horses. We strongly urge all European-based FEI athletes to avoid travel with their horses during this prolonged shutdown, as travel is a very clear risk factor.
“Sadly this additional lockdown is crucial to slow down the spread of the virus so that we can preserve the rest of the season, get our athletes and horses back competing safely and allow as long a period as possible for those aiming for Tokyo to earn their Minimum Eligibility Requirements and confirmation results.
“Nobody wants to see an outbreak like this ever again. There will be a comprehensive and fully transparent investigation into every aspect of this outbreak and the way it has been handled, and the findings will be published so that, together with our community, we can all learn from this.
“We will be putting in place enhanced protocols to allow for a safe return to play once this outbreak is under control, and we will advise our community on those well in advance of the resumption of international events, but the priority right now has to be the treatment of sick horses and getting healthy horses back to their home countries in a safe and biosecure way. We all need to focus on safeguarding not just FEI horses, but the wider European horse community.”
Work on identifying the gene sequencing of this strain of the virus is already underway, and the FEI is continuing to monitor the evolution of the virus through the FEI Veterinary Epidemiology Working Group, which was formalized this week. The group is composed of world-leading EHV specialists: Professor Ann Cullinane, Dr. Richard Newton, Dr. Gittan Gröndahl, FEI Veterinary Director Dr. Göran Akerström and FEI Senior Veterinary Advisor Caterina Termine. Reports from this group will be published on a weekly basis.