The Fédération Equestre Internationale announced on Oct. 22 that the FEI Bureau has set up a temporary committee to urgently assess the issues currently affecting the sport of endurance. The temporary committee will carry out an in-depth review of the rules in order to identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its original roots of endurance riding as opposed to endurance racing, with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core, while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the sport.
The temporary committee, which has been established under Article 36.1 of the FEI statutes, will be chaired by Dr. Sarah Coombs, a top FEI endurance veterinarian who has many years of experience officiating at FEI endurance events. Coombs was formerly the British endurance team vet, is a trustee of the global equine charity World Horse Welfare and is also chair of its veterinary advisory committee.
The committee members are Tarek Taher, an international endurance athlete from Saudi Arabia and recently-elected by his peers as a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee; Pieter Wiersinga, chef d’équipe of the Dutch Endurance team, a police commissioner and former head of the mounted police in the Netherlands; Dr. Margaret Sleeper, who has competed in FEI Endurance since 2005 and is also a trainer, official veterinarian and veterinary cardiologist; and Dr. Tim Parkin, who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s Global Endurance Injuries Study.
In order to underline the importance of this discipline review and to facilitate communication between the temporary committee and the FEI Bureau, FEI Second Vice President Mark Samuel will also be involved in the work of the temporary committee.
“We need to bring the discipline back to the principles of the FEI where welfare of the horse and horsemanship prevail,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “The temporary committee will conduct a thorough review of the discipline with the aim of getting back to real endurance riding with the focus on horsemanship and the partnership between horse and human. The sport has evolved and there needs to be a recognition of that, but the essence of the sport must remain the same. What we need are rules that place greater emphasis on completion of the event, rather than the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that is more and more threatening our sport.
“We have a strong Chair in Dr. Sarah Coombs, who has a long-standing and in-depth understanding of the sport, particularly the horse welfare and veterinary aspects. With this new role she will be helping steer this crucial next step by leading a committee of extremely knowledgeable members that is focused on regulatory change driven by science with horse welfare at its heart.”
Prior to the creation of the temporary committee, the FEI Bureau had received and accepted the resignation of Dr. Brian Sheahan as chair of the Endurance Technical Committee due to ill health. His eight-year term in office was due to expire in 2020. De Voss thanked Dr. Sheahan for his dedication and passion for the sport and wished him a speedy recovery.
In a further development, the Bureau has provisionally relieved Ignasi Casas Vaque of his rights and duties as deputy chair and member of the endurance committee due to pending legal proceedings for alleged incorrect behavior at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina).
The FEI legal department last week initiated a disciplinary action against Casas Vaque, based on evidence provided to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit during its investigation into the canceled endurance event in Tryon on Sept. 12.
Due to the resignation of the chair and the pending legal proceedings involving the deputy chair, the endurance committee is currently unable to function as a full committee. However, the remaining members of the Endurance Committee—Shanie Bosch-Fourie, Rocio Echeverri and Stéphane Chazel—will remain as members for their terms and until further notice. The temporary committee will be asked to consult with them to ensure their expertise is not lost during the review process.
The temporary committee will start work as soon as possible, with the plan to hold a session dedicated on endurance at the FEI Sports Forum in 2019.