The FEI World Cup™ Finals have been canceled for the second year in a row.
This time it’s ongoing outbreak of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) in Europe, not the (also ongoing) COVID pandemic, to blame.
Following the 28-day shutdown of all international events in mainland Europe previously announced on March 1, 2021, the FEI announced a two-week extension of the shutdown until April 11.
The shutdown is based on detailed scientific risk assessment conducted by epidemiologist Dr. Richard Newton and the FEI Veterinary Department and aims to minimise the further spread of the very aggressive strain of the virus. The extended lockdown applies to all FEI disciplines and to all countries that have international scheduled events scheduled in the period, including Austria, Belgium, Spain, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.
Among that list of events is the annual Finals for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ and the FEI Dressage World Cup™ that were scheduled to be held in Gothenburg, SWE, March 31 to April 4. The 2020 Finals were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The FEI is strongly recommending that all national events in mainland Europe be canceled as well in order to minimise horse movement.
Said FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez in the press release:
“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. We know how much work Tomas Torgersen and his incredible team in Gothenburg have put into organising the 2021 Finals, which would have been part of the 400th birthday anniversary celebrations for the city, so this is a desperately bitter blow.
“We cannot eradicate EHV as it is endemic in many countries, but we need to work together to minimise 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, Vejer de la Frontera and Doha 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, and of course to prepare their horses for the Games.
“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.”
The FEI is continuing to monitor the evolution of the virus through the newly formed FEI Veterinary Epidemiology Working Group, composed of world-leading EHV specialists, the FEI Veterinary Director and FEI Senior Veterinary Advisor, supported by the Chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee. Reports and recommendations from this Group will be published on a weekly basis.
Read the latest on EHV-1.