In February, British Horseracing was put into lockdown following an outbreak of equine influenza. A total of 174 racing stables had been placed in lockdown with 23 meetings lost during the shutdown.
The Animal Health Trust has reported that it is seeing more cases of equine flu than it would normally expect, due to a new strain of flu in circulation. Equine flu is endemic in the UK, which means that a number of cases of flu are always expected to be seen, as the virus is constantly circulating within the UK horse population.
Veterinary experts advised that it was not necessary to cancel other equine events but it was recommended that horses were vaccinated with a booster for equine flu with a vaccine that contains the Florida Clade 1, and that if horses were currently vaccinated, but it had been longer than six months since the last vaccination, a booster was discussed with your veterinary surgeon.
Following the outbreak, many equestrian centres across the country applied their own additional vaccination policies, requiring horses to have been vaccinated with the last six months. And with vaccinations not to be given within seven of a competition, this put a lot of competitors in a difficult position as their horses did not meet the venue’s criteria and they could not get a booster in time.
As a result, the British Eventing Jump Training Championships, due to take place at Hartpury College, was one of many competitions to be postponed. It was noted that many owners had taken the advised precaution and vaccinated their horses following the outbreak of Equine Flu, and would therefore not be permitted onto the venue, and postponing the championships would give as many competitors as possible the opportunity to compete at a later date.
The British Equestrian Federation (BEF), and other event organizing bodies, have been closely monitoring the situation. With the British Eventing season approaching a number of events in areas deemed to be at risk implemented enhanced flu vaccinations requirements for competitors. This contradicted British Eventing’s own policy that any competing horse should have been vaccinated in the past 12 months.
However, following a further review of its policy regarding, British Eventing is itself implementing an updated vaccination policy across all BE fixtures. The changes to vaccination requirements were effective from 1 March 2019 until further notice. The policy will be continually monitored and reviewed based on the current Equine Flu status and advice from industry experts, including veterinarians. The new vaccination policy aims to ensure that organisers, officials, riders, owners or person responsible, have a clear set of rules to follow without variation between venues and events.
One of the most important changes is that ‘No relevant injection may have been given on the day of competition.’ This means that injections can be given in the week running up to an event and therefore a seven-day window is not necessary under BE rules.
A valid passport and vaccination record
Must accompany the Horse to all Events,
Must be available for inspection on collection of numbers,
Must be produced on request at any other time during the Event.
Failure to comply with these requirements is a breach of this Rule and the Horse will not be allowed to compete.
10.2 Vaccinations – National Competitions
10.2.1 No Horse may take part in a BE National Event (which includes entering competition stables) unless it has a current vaccination against equine influenza which complies with the following conditions:
Two injections for primary vaccination, not less than 21 days and not more than 92 days apart, are required before being eligible to compete;
A first booster injection must be given within seven months after the second injection of primary vaccination;
Subsequent booster injections must be given at intervals of not more than one year, commencing after the first booster injection;
The most recent booster injection must have been given within the six calendar months prior to the horse arriving at the competition.
10.2.3 The Record of Vaccination(s) in the Horse’s passport must be completed by the appropriate veterinary surgeon (who is neither the Owner nor the Competitor of the Horse) in which the record of injection(s) is completed, signed and stamped line by line.
10.2.4 No relevant injection may have been given on the day of competition.
10.5.2 All horses must be free from clinical signs of contagions or infectious disease. Where appropriate, in the case of Equine Influenza, strangles or neurological EHV1 outbreaks, BE, acting throughout in reliance on veterinary advice, may prevent potentially exposed horses from competing at any BE Event. Members are strongly advised to follow the Horserace Levy Board (HBLB) Codes of Practice on Equine Diseases with particular regard to controlling the spread of disease.
10.5.2 All horses must be free from clinical signs of contagions or infectious disease. Where appropriate, in the case of Equine Influenza, strangles or neurological EHV1 outbreaks, BE, acting throughout in reliance on veterinary advice, may prevent potentially exposed horses from competing at any BE Event.
Forgotten passport; Any horse without a passport will be sent home (plus travel companions).
Unvaccinated companion horse; Passports and vaccination records in accordance with the new rules must be carried for all horses on board any vehicle. Any horses without passports and compliant vaccination records will be asked to leave the site, along with any others which they may have travelled with.
Booster given within seven days of the Event; This is fine. As long as the vaccination was given at least the day before the horse arrives at the Event, and is not more than one year after the previous booster.
Only primary course given: This is fine, as long as the horse has had the first two injections that make up the primary course, and the second injection was given within the last six months.
Primary course given, but first booster (due within seven months) has not yet been given; Fine if second injection was less than six months ago.
Historical discrepancies; In cases where there are historical discrepancies (for example, the booster was given five days late in 2014), but the primary course is correct and the horse has had the most recent booster within the last six months, it will be at the discretion of the Vet and BE Steward as to whether the horse may compete.
Competitors have been strongly advised to follow the Horserace Levy Board (HBLB) Codes of Practice on Equine Diseases with particular regard to controlling the spread of disease.
Advice on how to control the spread of Equine Flu from the Horserace Levy Board (HBLB) Codes of Practice on Equine Diseases can be found at HERE