UPDATED: Horse Euthanized Following WEG Endurance

Sep 14, 2018 - 3:45 PM

Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept. 14

Fédération Equestre Internationale officials announced in a press conference at the World Equestrian Games that one horse has been euthanized following the cancelation of the Sept. 12 100-mile Meydan Endurance Championship.

“I regret to inform that we have just received information from veterinarians that one horse owner has elected in consultation with the vets at Tryon Equine Hospital to euthanize a horse from the competition,” said Göran Akerström, the FEI’s veterinary director. “This horse had been treated for kidney problems here on site and then transferred to the Tryon Equine Hospital. FEI will issue a statement shortly on that tragic happening.”

The FEI said the name and nationality of the horse would be released in a future statement.

UPDATE: The FEI released the following information on the identity of the horse that was euthanized:

It is with great regret that we confirm that the horse Barack Obama (FEI 102TG75), ridden by Team New Zealand’s Jenny Champion (10017709) in the Endurance Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 on Wednesday (12 September), has been euthanised this afternoon. 

The horse, a 20-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding, was taken to the Endurance Treatment Clinic after being transported back from the second loop of the 120-kilometre ride. He was treated for kidney problems onsite at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and then transferred to the Tryon Equine Hospital for further treatment.

The horse’s owner, Mark Round, in consultation with the athlete and veterinarians, today elected for euthanasia.

In line with the FEI Veterinary Regulations, a post mortem will be conducted and samples will be taken from the horse.

The horse had been competing in international Endurance events since 2009 and had 16 FEI event starts, including six 160-kilometre rides. Jenny Champion took over the ride on the horse in 2014 and together the partnership had won six times.

The news was a low point for an already unfortunate situation. The race that began early Wednesday morning was first restarted after riders were misdirected, and then it was canceled entirely when weather and trail conditions were deemed too extreme.

Riders were told the race would be cancelled as they entered the third vet check gate, and their reactions varied between disappointment and outrage. Police officers were eventually called to address the situation, though no official reports of arrests were made.

Allan Leon - Spirit de CrouzFEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018© DigiShots
France’s Allan Leon riding Spirit De Crouze shakes a fist at stewards upon hearing the news of the cancelled race. Photo by DigiShots Photography.

A photographer in the vet gate area, Leanjo de Koster of DigiShots Photography, was present as riders came into the box and were told the ride had been canceled.

“It was total chaos. I’ve never seen so much chaos,” de Koster said. “They were galloping around giving the middle finger and yelling curse words. A crew member started yelling at the steward, and it starts to build up a little bit more angry.”

De Koster’s photo of a rider making a lewd gesture has made the rounds on social media.

Heather Reynolds, a U.S. trainer and coach of two horses competing in this WEG, also witnessed the commotion after cancelation.

“It was insane. One of our friends got punched in the face,” Reynolds said. “You had the whole group outside the vet area; it was basically the riders who were upset that they stopped the ride getting pissed off at the officials, because they have no one else to target, so they were yelling and screaming.”

The riders who appeared most upset were on teams positioned to medal. Despite the weather and trail conditions, their horses were still passing the vet checks.

“I do agree they had to cancel it because people were riding faster than they should have been. It wasn’t the weather at all,” said Reynolds. “When they scheduled this race, they knew this was going to be the weather; you could have looked at the weather for this area in the last 10 years and known it would be like this. That wasn’t the reason. Otherwise why would they host the race in the first place?

“Cancelling the ride penalized the riders that were pacing correctly,” Reynolds continued. “They were still in the race with healthy horses.”

Thomas Timmons, president of the Endurance Veterinary Commission, addressed this sentiment at the press conference, saying despite the fact that some horses were still fit to compete, the majority were not.

“At the vet gate where the stop was there were over 53 horses at that time that were basically sent to metabolic. That’s an unprecedented number,” said Timmons. “Yes, there were some healthy horses present, but we have no mechanism to stop or slow horses that are in trouble other than veterinary parameters. In terms of those who still may have been able to continue, regardless, the conditions were extreme enough that you have to consider the risk, and the risk was not worth it.”

As of publication, the FEI had not released the official results indicating which horses were pulled from which vet checks or sent to the treatment barn. The FEI said this information would be released at a later date.

A protest was lodged by the Spanish endurance team asking for medals to be awarded to the riders who were leading when the race was called off, as Spain looked to be in contention for team gold. The FEI announced that this request had been denied. FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said the organization was looking into rescheduling the championship, but the situation is unprecedented.

One competitor, Tarek Taher of Saudi Arabia, called an informal rider’s meeting Thursday night ahead of Friday’s press conference. Taher wanted to discuss the creation of a rider’s organization to represent athlete concerns directly to the FEI, and Taher was also present at Friday’s press conference.

Meeting EnduranceFEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018© DigiShots
An informal meeting of endurance riders took place at the Tryon International Equestrian Center Thursday night. Photo by DigiShots Photography.

“Or course I’m angry. I have passionate concern for horses and riders. I’ve been racing for 22 years. I’ve been riding since I was 8 years old,” Taher said. “I’m also a candidate to be the FEI endurance athlete representative, and I feel my role, as senior, is to gather everybody, calm everybody and say, ‘Let’s put our heads together. Let’s cool down; let’s outline what went wrong for this race, what is it that we want to change within the FEI for the benefit of the horse welfare and to have an equitable platform for communication with the FEI.’ ”

The Chronicle will update this article with any further information about the horse that was euthanized or other horses pulled at vet gates during the race.

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