USEF Proposes Rule Changes to Allow for Intervention in Case of Horse Abuse on Private Property

Mon, 02/12/2024 - 18:44
Big USEF meeting at the 2024 CDI-W Wellington on Thursday 8 February 2024: Chief of Sport David O’Connor, USEF President Tom O’Mara, Chief Executive Officer William Moroney :: Photo © Astrid Appels

The Chronicle of the Horse has reported that the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) has proposed two new rule changes which allows the federation to intervene in case horse abuse on private property.

Up to this point, USEF is only authorised to "to discipline riders for abuse occurring in conjunction with a competition—either on show grounds or when a horse is presented for competition with evidence of recent abuse—or in response to action taken by “certain other entities such as the authorities or a court of law,” as USEF spokeswoman Vicki Lowell told The Chronicle.

The proposed rule changes will need to be approved by USEF’s board at its mid-year meeting before action can be taken on 17 - 18 June (!!).  

USEF's associate members (U.S. hunter/jumper and eventing association) have previously discussed such a rule change in meetings, but at the time it remarkably failed to pass at the final board meeting in a 3-8 vote, according to The Chronicle.

The Chronicle further explained, "although the rule change, if approved at the mid-year board meeting to go into effect Dec. 1, 2024, cannot be applied retroactively, it would ensure that “a person who abuses a horse any time after the effective date of the rule change can be accountable under USEF’s rules, regardless of where the abuse occurred."

Cesar Parra Case

The rule changes were prompted by the shocking footage that was revealed taken at the barns of Colombian born American Olympian Cesar Parra.

So far USEF has only gone on record with media who requested a reaction from the federation. No official statement has been posted on the USEF website to this date. The FEI has provisionally suspended Parra on 2 February 2024. Two German accomplices - who in one video were seemingly assisting in and verbally approving the alleged abuse  - have been excluded by several breed societies while the German Equestrian Federation is also looking into sanctioning them. 

At the moment USEF is powerless to sanction Parra as the alleged abuse took place at his home. However, the FEI has a stronger rule in play, which can sanction members for abuse “during an event or at any other time.” Because USEF honours FEI suspensions, Parra got banned from competing nationally in USEF-recognized competitions as well.

Updated Information - 15 February 2024

On 15 February 2024 USEF sent out the following message with more detailed information about the rule changes. 

As part of our continued commitment to protecting the welfare of our equine partners, USEF has proposed rule changes to strengthen the horse abuse rule. Earlier this week, an extraordinary rule change to GR 838 was proposed to accompany the standard rule change to GR 702 currently under consideration, which, if approved, would expand USEF jurisdiction beyond competition environments. Specifically, the two rules call for:

GR 702 – The proposed change to GR 702 was submitted in early September 2023 with the intention of increasing the scope of jurisdiction of USEF to pursue investigation and disciplinary action for reported horse abuse occurring outside of the competition environment.

GR 838 – This newly presented extraordinary rule change is intended to increase the scope of jurisdiction for equine abuse, further define actions that are considered equine abuse, require mandatory reporting of equine abuse, and amplify the ability for competition management and licensed officials to impose disciplinary actions during a competition for matters of equine abuse.

The extraordinary rule change coincided with the recently surfaced allegations of abuse against horses. Upon learning of and receiving photos and videos of the alleged abuse, USEF immediately contacted the FEI, and they quickly imposed a temporary suspension while they actively investigate the matter. This was possible because FEI General Regulations Article 142 provides jurisdiction beyond competition environments. US Equestrian does not currently have such a rule in place at the national level. If passed, both GR 702 and GR 838, would allow USEF to further protect our equine partners and pursue disciplinary action for reported and documented cases of abuse outside of competition environments.

Related Links
Joint Statement Oldenburg/Hannover About German Involvement in Parra Abuse Case
German Equestrian Federation Investigates German Involvement in Alleged Abuse Case
FEI Provisionally Suspends Cesar Parra (USA) for Alleged Animal Abuse