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USEF Competitions Update: Wildfires and Air Quality Impacting the West Coast

by US Equestrian Competitions Department | Sep 15, 2020, 3:26 PM EST

The 2020 competition year continues to challenge everyone in the equestrian community. Now, the impacts initially caused by the pandemic are being amplified on the West Coast due to the tragic wildfires affecting the states of California, Oregon and Washington. In light of these devastating wildfires, concerns over air quality are ever-present since both humans and equines can be equally impacted.

USEF believes the decision by organizers to operate, suspend, or cancel competitions due to compromised air quality is best made by each individual organizer, because venue conditions can vary and can change rapidly depending upon weather, geography, and other factors. In order to make the most informed decision, competition organizers must consult with state and local health authorities and government agencies and should frequently review the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines involving air quality at AirNow.gov to determine whether or not to operate their events. Additionally, to best protect the health and safety of both equine and human competitors, the USEF strongly recommends that, in situations where the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches 151 or above, an organizer consider suspending or cancelling competition. In cases of cancellation, organizers must inform competitors about refund or credit policies.

Similarly, members must conduct their own risk assessment with regard to air quality based on the situation in their area and determine whether to compete. Certainly, anyone with underlying medical conditions should individually consider not competing in situations where the AQI is in the orange zone of 101 to 150. Many resources exist to monitor the air quality including AirNow.gov, a website formed in a collaborative effort by several national agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Weather Service, the CDC, and many others. AirNow.gov reports air quality using the official, color-coded U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI).