In response to concerns raised by competition organizers and officials, EC’s Health and Welfare Committee has prepared the following recommendations in regard to assessing air quality for equestrian competition. These recommendations and resources will be shared more broadly in the coming weeks via the Health and Welfare What the Health e-newsletter.
There is currently a lack of equine specific recommendations for assessing air quality and the potential impacts to equine health and welfare. The committee has recommended that competitions organizers, ground jury, officials, veterinarians and competitors follow the guidelines provided by Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index . Resources are available through Environment Canada to assist with the use and understanding Air Quality Health Messages
It is important that decisions to amend or cancel competitions are made with both human and horse health as top priority. Competitors whose horses may be considered at risk population (older, younger, pre-existing respiratory conditions) must be especially aware of the signs of respiratory distress and associated risks. It is recommended that competitions that proceed in AQHI range of 4-10 ensure that the at risk population is educated properly and continually monitored for any change in health.
Furthermore, when competition management is engaged in the decision making process as it relates to AQHI and competition, public optics and the perception of animal welfare must also be taken in to account. For example, if human sport competition or physical outdoor activities in the affected region has been postponed or reduced it would be assumed the same considerations would be made for animals.
There are scientific findings that suggest that horse respiratory systems can be more sensitive than that of humans, and therefore the committee agreed that competition management should consider following the recommendations outlined in the AQHI for “at risk populations*” for all horses and horse competitions in order to err on the side of caution.
The Health and Welfare committee will be working with equine medical researchers to develop an equine specific index. The information in this document is to be used as a supplement in the interim. Please see the below links for education to be shared within your networks.