BD statement: vaccinations & microchipping

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Wed, 11 Sep 2019 08:57 GMT

We’re aware of some questions that have been raised by some members over the incoming rule which mandates six monthly boosters against Equine Influenza (EI) and would like to provide further information about the rationale behind this decision.

For much of 2019, the United Kingdom has been affected by outbreaks of EI, which initially hit the national news headlines in February, although the number of cases actually peaked as recently as July. As a National Governing Body, the welfare of equines competing under our rules has to remain paramount at all times – and it’s our responsibility, along with every horse owner, to help negate the spread of this virus.

Throughout the course of this year, we’ve been acting on advice and evidence from our veterinary and industry colleagues on the BEF High Health Steering Group, the Equine Infectious Disease Advisory Group and the Animal Health Trust (AHT). We took the decision not to change our vaccination requirements mid-season during the initial outbreak, instead strongly recommending that a six month booster be given, while continually monitoring the situation based on the latest updates from the AHT.

Boosters within six months of competing have been compulsory for FEI competitors for some time and British Eventing made an immediate rule change to implement the same vaccination regulations for all BE competitions.

A priority for the BEF High Health Steering Group, which was set up at the start of this year and is chaired by Dr Jane Nixon, has been driving harmonisation of vaccination rules across the Federation. All member bodies will be required to follow the same protocol, so that the intervals for first three vaccinations are all aligned, whatever the discipline, with a minimum requirement of annual vaccinations and six monthly boosters strongly advised.

While this is a positive step to improve vaccination rates across the equine population, as a high profile Olympic sport we believe it is important to lead by example, based on the expert veterinary advice on offer, by mandating six monthly boosters as a requirement of competing with British Dressage from 1 December 2019 onwards.

As a result of the outbreak in February, a number of our show venues have already taken the decision to mandate six monthly boosters, particularly equine colleges or those that have large livery facilities. This has led to some confusion among members as to the different vaccination requirements from venue to venue, which has necessitated additional checks before competing.

Obviously our preference is to have a consistent approach across all of our venues, with a clear policy that all members can follow. However, we appreciate that this is a significant move, so we wanted to ensure that we considered the advice provided by veterinary experts before amending our competition rules. All of the evidence points to the efficacy of vaccinations reducing after six months, hence the decision taken by the British Dressage Board of Directors to act accordingly.

There is strong scientific evidence from both previous outbreak investigations and mathematical modelling projects to support that the herd immunity arising from adopting six monthly instead of 12 monthly booster vaccination will be enhanced.
Dr Richard Newton Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance at the Animal Health Trust

In the most recent AHT update, Dr Newton reinforces this point: “We believe it is through the actions of responsible horse owners who have heeded the advice to vaccinate their animals in light of the increased infectious risk that has contributed to the decline in the number of outbreaks we are seeing now. However, Equine Influenza remains a threat to the horse population and therefore owners should continue to remain vigilant and follow the advice to boost their horse’s vaccination if it was given more than six months ago.”

Dr Jane Nixon MA VETMB BSC MRCVS, Chair of the BEF High Health Steering Group, added; “It’s welcome news that British Dressage are implementing six monthly boosters in their vaccination regulations. We’re in the middle of an equine flu epidemic, with over 220 reported outbreaks alone so far in 2019 – and outbreak case includes a number of horses so there are thousands affected; marking a staggering increase on last year, when only two outbreaks were confirmed in the UK.

“We all need to help control the spread of the virus and vaccination unequivocally does just that. There have been several peer-reviewed scientific papers which support vaccination, including six monthly boosters, which should not leave any responsible horse owner in doubt that this is the right way forward.”

Jason Brautigam, Chief Executive of British Dressage, commented: “It is vitally important that we take our collective responsibility to reduce the risk of Equine Influenza in the UK and we need to base our vaccination rules on the latest advice from veterinary experts. It is the responsible approach for a National Governing Body to take and, as we continually emphasise, horse welfare must remain at the heart of everything we do in BD.”

The exact wording of the new rule will be as follows:

Equine Influenza Vaccination

To protect the health of the other competing horses and the biosecurity of the venue, a valid passport must accompany the horse to all competitions and be produced on request. Failure to comply is a disciplinary offence and will debar the horse from competing at the event for which it has been entered. A horse will not be permitted to compete unless it has a current vaccination against equine influenza which complies with the following conditions:

• An initial course of 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 between 150 and 215 days after the second injection of primary vaccination
• Subsequent booster injections must be given at regular intervals of not more than 12 months, commencing after the first booster injection.
• The most recent booster injection must have been given within six calendar months prior to the horse competing.
• The full course or booster must have been administered at least seven days before the competition.

The vaccination record(s) in the horse’s passport, must be completed, signed and stamped line by line, by an appropriate veterinary surgeon (who is neither the owner nor the rider of the horse). For those competing under FEI rules, please refer to FEI rules. The responsibility to comply with this rule lies with the competitor, who should consult with their veterinarian.

Horses being found without adequate and up to date vaccinations will not be allowed to compete and will be barred from competing until such a time that they have been given their first and second vaccinations. Membership and Horse Registration will be suspended for any horses and their owners in breach of this rule.

Horse Microchipping

There is also a degree of confusion around microchipping, as we've made it a requirement for registration, with effect from 1 December 2019. A law was passed in June 2018 which came into effect on 1 October last year for all horses to be microchipped, with a two year implementation period. The deadlines to have your horse microchipped expire on 1 October 2020 for England, 12 February 2021 for Wales and 28 March 2021 for Scotland. After this time, non-compliance may be liable for a fixed penalty notice and fine.
The law is in place and active, as from 1 October last year, hence us introducing the requirement ahead of the legal enforcement deadline so members are ready and not at risk of incurring unnecessary fines. Microchipping is part of the Equine ID project from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) alongside passports and registration on the Central Equine Database in a bid to prevent abuse and improve welfare. As part of responsible horse ownership, we are all required to comply with this law.