Marc van den Dungen has accused the Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS), prominent lobbyists for change in international endurance, of putting success at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ahead of horse welfare.
Van den Dungen resigned as chair of the KHNS endurance technical committee on July 14 in protest after three riders were selected for the Dutch endurance squad riding horses provided by the United Arab Emirates. Van der Dungen says he advised against this several weeks ago but was ignored.
“It should be unthinkable for the KNHS, as a federation, to send horses under ownership of the UAE to an international championship, especially now that they have written and spoken out internationally, denouncing the abhorrent [endurance] practices in the Middle East,” he said in a statement, which was published on Facebook and sent to the KNHS.
“I do not wish to be associated with an organization that pays lip service to horse welfare by putting success at the World Equestrian Games at the top of its agenda, instead of the welfare of the horse,” he continued.
He was especially concerned that the three UAE-owned horses each competed just three weeks apart in the tough Fédération Equestre Internationale rides at Compiegne, France—a weekend mired by multiple welfare controversies—and Numana, Italy. He also felt that the riding of virtually “strange” horses was contrary to the guidelines issued by the coaching team of the Dutch senior equestrian squad to top riders.
“It is precisely these circumstances that led to veterinarians present at Compiegne to send a letter of indignation to the FEI in order to bring attention to the abuse of horses in the sport of endurance, and the role that riders and trainers have in this abuse,” he added.
“We have horse welfare as a very high priority,” said Maarten van der Heijden, sports director of KNHS. “Not only in endurance, but in all disciplines. We are very critical, and we will continue to fully monitor and supervise. The coach [Emile Docquier] insists continually that the riders train horses in a way that they form a combination with each other as much as possible.
“I understand that all this is a sensitive issue, but we have acted in accordance with the FEI rules,” he continued. “We would like to perform well at the World Equestrian Games but never at the expense of horses.”