Illegal Holding Box Procedures at Fair Hill

The Chronicle of the Horse published a post about some questionable actions taken in the holding box at Fair Hill this weekend. Two horses that were entered in the CCI2* this weekend, Fly Me Courageous and L.E. Font, were held after jogging and were advised to withdraw upon further inspection. “Further inspection” in this case appears to be flexion tests performed on the horses, which is illegal according to FEI rules (Article 1033, Section IV, d.).

The Chronicle reports:

According to [veterinarian Denys] Frappier, the horses were sensitive to palpation, so he flexed them.

“I have to give an answer to the ground jury,” he said. “If it confirms my first palpation, is he just ticklish and he doesn’t want me to touch him, then I flex him, and he trotted very, very lame. It made me comfortable of my answer to the ground jury.”

Both riders withdrew, not knowing that an illegal flexion had just taken place. When they realized, they appealed to technical delegate Martin Plewa, but he told them once they’d withdrawn there was nothing he could do.

Common sense says that we as riders will always put our horses’ welfare above a competition. I would speculate that both Debbie Foote (Fly Me Courageous) and Jessica Shull (L.E. Font) are taking every measure possible to ensure that their horses are safe and sound at the end of the day, although they must simply be gutted on having to withdraw before even setting foot in the dressage ring. However, to what extent should the veterinarian in the holding box have taken his examination? Furthermore, flexion tests are often stressful on a horse’s joints, so some think that they can produce inaccurate results based on how the horse reacts.

Betsy Ball, who owns L.E. Font, was displeased with the results of the horse inspection. She told COTH: “No one wants to run a crippled horse. They palpated my horse’s joint and said he was fine, but they were holding his hoof up to his stomach like a ‘you want money off a pre-purchase’ flexion. It’s six months until the next two-star. If he weren’t sound, I wouldn’t have driven from Mississippi to Maryland.”

Denys Frappier has stood by his decision to take the examination further, saying that he had the horses’ best interests in mind. There is no word on what, if any, consequences there will be for the infraction of FEI rules regarding the horse inspection.

We will have more on this story as it develops. What do you think? Did the veterinarian take his job too far, or should more precautionary measures and/or procedures be allowed in the holding box?

For the full Chronicle article, click here.

Footage of Debbie Foote and Fly Me Courageous at the jog, courtesy of Thehorsepesterer 

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