Excerpt from the May issue of Heels Down Magazine.
At the Olympic Games in Rio, four show jumpers were eliminated from individual competition when a ground jury found that riders drew blood on their horses with the whip or spurs. Despite this, they were allowed to continue in team events.
In 2010, a top dressage rider was eliminated during a Grand Prix test at the World Equestrian Games when a judge spotted blood in the horse’s mouth. The rider and horse pair were not allowed to continue to the Grand Prix Special or Freestyle after the elimination.
At the Fair Hill International Horse Trials last year, a top level eventer was allowed to continue on cross country after the ground jury identified blood in the horse’s mouth more than halfway through the course. The horse was deemed fit to continue to stadium jumping by a veterinarian and the rider wasn’t eliminated or given a warning.
The laws related to blood on a horse may vary between show jumping, dressage, eventing and hunter disciplines, but the the intention is the same: to safeguard the welfare of the horse. But top riders and trainers are at odd ends on how the rule should be enforced. One camp believes each incident should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Others say there’s no room for tolerance in any sense.
“It is only seen as controversial as the rider is usually upset that he or she has been disqualified and something out of their control has led to elimination. The rule in dressage and jumping is currently unambiguous and therefore does not allow any element of common sense or flexibility,” said Dr. Peter Milligan, a team veterinarian with British Eventing.