At last, a positive reaction from the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) to the distressing happenings that are occurring in endurance events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Practices that are seemingly acceptable during races in the UAE include: hanging on to a horses ear whilst cantering, pulling the head down in the belief it lowers heart rate, excessive speeds, the use of medication and the continual change of riders for one horse – indeed a person need never have ridden on a particular horse before they set foot to complete 100 or so miles together, which never happens in other disciplines.
And whilst there are many practical uses for duct tape in the stable yard, taping over blinkers leaving just narrow splits for a horse to supposedly see through is not one that many of us had previously thought of.
Today (26 February), the FEI has issued a statement to the effect that it has removed the two remaining international endurance events, scheduled to be held in the UAE in March 2015, from the FEI calendar. The FEI states: “This is an emergency measure to protect horse welfare and to preserve the integrity of the FEI rules and regulations at FEI events.”
The removal of the events is an unprecedented move by the FEI and a public humiliation for the UAE. It also means a lost opportunity for riders and horses to qualify for international events, albeit this will not have such a huge impact.
It’s taken time for the FEI to finally comment and act on the unpleasant goings on during races in the UAE. Perhaps the strong responses from other national federations has finally got through to them? Hopefully now they’ve realised they need to take a pro-active lead in this sorry state of affairs… their previous line was that the events concerned took place during national competitions and therefore were nothing to do with international rules or the governing body.
Two days ago the national equestrian federation of Switzerland, a country that is also home of the FEI head office in Lausanne, announced they were ‘outraged’ by recent events. It also reserved the decision for its riders not to compete in next year’s Elite World Endurance Championships in Dubai.
Denmark has also imposed restrictions on her elite riders while Belgium, Australia and Germany have all also made public statements. We’re now waiting for something similar from the British Equestrian Federation or at least something reiterating that the rules should be strictly applied during races in the UAE.
My award-winning colleague Pippa Cuckson has fought a long and often lonely battle, to improve the welfare (and life) of endurance horses in the UAE. Things came to a head with the recent world-wide postings of the horrific pictures of the horse, Splitters Creek Bundy, being pushed from behind whilst suffering two simultaneously broken forelegs. One hopes that his subsequent death has not been in vain and that Pippa’s endless campaign, which has now been swelled by the voices of many, will mean that ultimately, the so called sport of endurance in the UAE will continue on the same lines and with the same rules that apply else-where in the world.
To read the FEI statement