In response to the allegations of continued rule breaking in endurance in the United Arab Emirates, the Fédération Equestre Internationale has released a new set of sanctions for the nation’s program. But the American Endurance Ride Conference and other national federations are still concerned that the new rules won’t be followed or enforced.
The 2016 FEI World Endurance Championships, to be held in Dubai, are scheduled for December, and an online petition started by the Clean Endurance group now has nearly 5,000 signatures requesting a new venue.
According to an FEI press release, FEI Endurance Director Manuel Bandeira de Mello met with Emirates Equestrian Federation Vice President Mohammad Alkamali, EEF Secretary General Taleb Dhaher Al Mheiri and EEF Executive Board Member Faisal Al Ali to work through the exact measures that will be implemented at international and national endurance events in the UAE for the remainder of the current season, which runs until early April.
The meeting was in response to the 120-kilometer youth event at Al Wathba on Jan. 30, where horses were beaten as they crossed the finish line. The 12 specific measures were approved by both groups.
“We need to change hearts as well as minds, and the solution lies in education and dialogue, as well as taking a tough line with sanctions,” said FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez. “The Emirates Equestrian Federation has been bold, taking stringent action as seen recently with the suspension of events and sanctioning athletes and trainers, clearly demonstrating their commitment to work together with the FEI to eradicate the incidents that have tarnished the sport. We will continue to work together to ensure progress.”
But AERC President Michael Campbell noted that previous regulations, which allowed the UAE national federation back into the FEI after a suspension, were also agreed upon by both groups, and that successful implementation of the rules still isn’t occurring.
“I would say no to [sending a U.S. team to] the world championships until the UAE has shown some reliability in following the rules,” said Campbell. “If there was a year’s worth of compliance, I’d be more likely to believe it. I think almost all the countries in the world feel pretty much the same way I do. UAE endurance, except for Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has not demonstrated a heartfelt willingness to comply with the rules.
“We’re talking about significant international relationships, and it’ll take time, and I get that,” he continued. “If we continue to be firm and reasonable, it’s still a real learning curve, and it’ll take more than a year or two.”
Though Campbell said he’ll lobby against sending a U.S. team to this year’s championship, he suspects the USEF will send riders.
“The USEF Selection Process for the World Endurance Championship began in December 2015 and continues as published,” said Kristen Brett, USEF director of endurance, in a written statement. “The USEF remains in full support of the actions being taken by the FEI to work towards eliminating alleged welfare abuses in the sport of endurance.”
The Swiss Equestrian Federation released a statement Feb. 10, before the latest measures were announced, demanding a new location for the championships.
The 12 FEI-approved measures, which will be applied for the rest of the UAE endurance season, are:
1. Reduced number of events for the rest of the season.
2. Limit the number of horse-and-rider combinations entered into each international and national event to 150.
3. Heart rate presentation times reduced to between 56 and 60 beats per minute for all loops in one-star competitions, and in the final loop for two- and three-star CEIs and CENs.
4. Recovery time reduced to between 10 and 15 minutes for all loops in one-star and in the final loop for two-and three-star CEIs and CENs.
*Heart rates and recovery times will be monitored closely by the FEI and EEF, with action taken where needed (if athletes exceed these limits they will be eliminated).
5. Rest periods between loops will be reviewed by veterinary officials to determine whether 50-minute holds will be more beneficial to the horses.
6. The last 2-5 kilometers of the final loop will be designated and controlled so that no cars or crews can access.
7. In the final loop, crewing in the form of offering cooling water bottles will only be allowed at designated crewing points every 2-5 kilometers—no other crewing will be allowed.
8. In all CEI*** and CEI**** events, all horses will be confined in secure overnight stabling, in accordance with FEI regulations.
9. The official television broadcasters have been named; as such the film/video recordings are the official record of the event, and hence legal actions may be taken against the violators of any regulation viewed on this footage.
10. Crews will be identified with numbered bibs that match the number of the horse to enable easy identification; should a horse be eliminated from the competition, the bibs will be surrendered immediately. Only those people with a numbered bib matching that of the horse still in competition will be allowed to crew or to accompany the horse at any time during the event.
11. A ride briefing will be held at each event to review regulations and to update everyone involved of any changes in regulations for the event; attendance will be compulsory; failure to attend shall result in immediate elimination from the event.
12. All officials will now be appointed by the EEF instead of organizing committees; no non-EEF appointed officials will be able to officiate at international and national events.
“Protecting horses comes first, and we are determined that this specific value is upheld at international and national level endurance competitions,” said Ibáñez. “While the FEI does not have jurisdiction over national events, we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that changes at an international level are also felt nationally. It is clear for everyone what is at stake, and the FEI is working closely with the EEF to make sure that any challenges to run the sport within the FEI’s clearly mapped rules are overcome, and that everyone in the sport understands the importance of standing by the measures implemented for the rest of the season.”