On April 15, the Dutch and Swiss equestrian federations released a joint statement expressing their dissatisfaction with the Fédération Equestre Internationale collaboration with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the composition of the new FEI task force on endurance.
While both federations expressed satisfaction that the FEI is taking the welfare issues in endurance seriously, they questioned the choice of Sheikh Mohammed as a consultant in doping prevention, the composition of the new task force, and the ongoing evolution in endurance.
“The Dutch and the Swiss Federations are pleased to notice that the FEI endorses the Endurance Strategic Planning Group recommendations and pushes ahead with its implementation,” the release stated. “Nonetheless, they express their regrets concerning the superficial attendance of formation of the riders, the trainers and the officials, as well as the selection of HH Sheikh Mohammed for an essential role on the way to finding solutions concerning the issues in endurance.”
Although Sheikh Mohammed is the reigning World Champion in endurance, he was suspended for six months following the use of prohibited substances in 2009, and there have been more than 24 positive cases concerning horses from his stables in recent years.
“The Dutch and the Swiss Federations are extremely concerned about the choice of the participants in the new Task Force consisting of six persons: Two are very close to HH Sheikh Mohammed, and one is a specialist in racing. No Europeans or Americans have been selected, although the movement against the issues in endurance started in Europe, and the Americans were the initiators of the discipline,” continued the release. “During the Round Table and the presentations at the General Assembly and the Endurance Conference, it was clearly requested not to split the discipline of Endurance in “flat racing” and “classical Endurance” and to keep it in the spirit of its original definition for the welfare of the horse.
“The mission of this new Task Force is to look for deployment of ‘modern technology,’ but the basics such as education of all the parties involved, the transparency in the reporting, etc. are not part of its objectives. For the Dutch and Swiss federations there are evident conflicts of interest.”
The federations expressed concern over the evolution of endurance into “flat endurance-racing.”
“This should not in any case be supported by the FEI because of severe horse welfare concerns,” read the release. “Even though the issues in Endurance have been discussed for more than one year, almost nothing has changed. It is not the creation of new bodies, committees or commissions that will cure the situation in Endurance but the full implementation of the existing rules in all parts of the world by incorruptible officials for the sake of horse welfare and sport equity.”