The International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists awarded British journalist Pippa Cuckson with the 2013 Bureau Award for her outstanding contribution to journalism, specifically for her intrepid reporting of the scandal surrounding the endurance sport in the Middle East.
Cuckson’s interest in the high rate of horse fatalities and injuries related to doping cases in Middle East endurance dates back to her time with Horse & Hound as deputy editor in the late 1990s. In April 2012, she attended the endurance debate at an Fédération Equestre Internationale open forum and found that the doping problem had grown considerably worse.
“Largely though, I was unable to interest anyone in stories about it, firstly because of the distraction of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and also the reluctance, fear even, of critics to go on the record,” said Cuckson. “This is still a factor now. A number of key stories circulating on the Internet still have not had the proper scrutiny they deserve in mainstream publications.”
It wasn’t until the April 2013 doping scandal at Godolphin that Cuckson gained the opportunity to explore the doping problem further. “A number of racing media were looking for connections between Sheikh Mohammed’s racing and endurance operations because his disgraced Godolphin trainer, Al Zarooni, had previously worked in an endurance stable run by trainer Mubarak Bin Shafya, who is well known to the FEI Tribunal,” said Cuckson.
She spent four days researching every FEI tribunal report involving the UAE. In a snowball effect, Cuckson’s work emerged as the Belgian and Swiss Equestrian Federations were intensifying their lobbying of the FEI about horse welfare issues in endurance.
Covering this story was important to Cuckson because it focuses on two issues she feels will ultimately destroy the equestrian sport as we know it—responsibility to the horses and how the moral conscience strays when money is involved.
“I was delighted enough when told I had won this but didn’t realize it recognizes a more general contribution to the horse industry until I read the press release,” Cuckson said. “So it was an even greater honor, and very humbling, to discover that I have been bracketed for achievement with George Morris.”
(The award was created to honor members of the equestrian community for outstanding contributions to the industry. George H. Morris was the inaugural recipient in 2012.)
A stalwart of the equestrian media, Cuckson spent 20 years on the editorial team at Horse & Hound and freelances for several publications including The Daily Telegraphy, Horse Sport International and The Chronicle of the Horse.
Cuckson will receive the award at the IAEJ General Meeting during the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.