Monday, May. 27, 2024

Ward Responds To FEI Decision In Sapphire Hypersensitivity Case

“Certainly I feel a little bittersweet,” said McLain Ward after the Fédération Equestre Internationale ruled that Sapphire should not have been disqualified from Round 2 at the World Cup Final (Switzerland) in April.

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“Certainly I feel a little bittersweet,” said McLain Ward after the Fédération Equestre Internationale ruled that Sapphire should not have been disqualified from Round 2 at the World Cup Final (Switzerland) in April.

“In the end, I think there was some admittance from the FEI that things weren’t handled properly. While on a personal level, I may have wanted to fight it a little further, I think on a professional level and for the good of the sport, which is the most important, this was the right decision to try and move forward in a good direction,” he said.

“I think the true concept [of the hypersensitivity protocol] was not what was applied in Geneva,” Ward continued. “The concept was to make sure there was a way to protect horses in a situation which maybe wasn’t covered by the black-and-white rules. But it was to be used in extreme circumstances, and this wasn’t the case in my situation. I think the rules were taken out of their context and misused.”

As a result of this investigation, FEI officials have decided to issue mandatory guidelines for the Veterinary Commissions appointed for FEI events in order to strengthen the hypersensitivity protocol that was applied at the World Cup. These guidelines will be communicated to all national federations prior to the CHIO in Aachen, Germany.

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“The protocol has been strengthened,” Ward said. “There are more steps to coming to a finding that a horse is hypersensitive in a certain area, then there’s an appeal process that is going to be included. There are going to be several checks and balances along the way so that decisions aren’t taken lightly. In Geneva, the decision was made by the head of the ground jury as if he was deciding what to eat for dinner. That’s not acceptable, that one official has that power.

“Giving up some of the personal battle was fine, because I thought the greater good was more important,” Ward added. “In protecting the welfare of the horse, there shouldn’t be rules written that punish innocent people in innocent situations. The welfare of the horse issue is premier, but unfair sport and unfair treatment of riders are also unacceptable. I think this has been a real eye-opener for our federation, and I commend the way they handled it. Now more than ever, they’re going to be on top of keeping up with these rules and monitoring their application.”

 

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