LIMB SENSITIVITY IN EQUESTRIAN COMPETITION
Limb Sensitivity refers to the sensation perceived by horses in their legs. When the sensation is increased beyond normal limits it is called hypersensitivity, when the sensation is below normal limits it is called hyposensitivity. Hypersensitivity can be produced by a range of normal occurrences, such as insect stings, accidental self-inflicted injuries, skin infections etc. Hyposensitivity could result from traumatic or surgical cutting of the nerves to that area of the limb (i.e. neurectomy.)
Hypersensitisation is the term used to define the artificial production of hypersensitivity. It is contrary to horse welfare and fair play as it could encourage horses to jump more carefully and higher.
LIMB SENSITIVITY EXAMINATIONS
During FEI Events, Limb Sensitivity examinations or assessments of the horse are based primarily on a clinical examination using palpation (manual pressure) and observation, it may also involve the use of a thermographic camera (an infra-red camera used to detect abnormal heat patterns on the skin). An examination for lameness, such as a trot-up, in not involved.
If the Examining Veterinarians observe excessively sensitive, or insensitive, limbs (an abnormal limb sensitivity), they will inform the Person Responsible (rider) or their Represenative (e.g. the groom) and the opportunity is available to Withdraw the Horse from competition, without further consequences. If the Horse is not Withdraw the Examining Veterinarians will make a further Final Examination with the Ground Jury and the Veterinary Delegate to decide whether the horse should be allowed to continue in the Compeition or be Disqualified; video is taken to record the examination and findings.
There is no appeal against the decision by the Ground Jury, following a Final Examination, to disqualify a horse for abnormal limb sensitivity examination. However, if a horse is disqualified more than 12 hours prior to a competition for which it is qualified to compete, the Person Responsible may request that the horse be re-examined. Such a request must be made within 30 minutes of the notification by the Ground Jury of the horse’s disqualification.
Horses with hypersensitive limbs are disqualified on the basis of horse welfare and fair play; however hypersensitive limbs are not necessarily a result of a manipulation to the legs, rather they can often be a sign of infection or other injury.
FURTHER DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE LIMB SENSITIVITY PROTOCOL CAN BE VIEWED BELOW