Valerie Kanavy, of the United States, the former athlete representative on the Endurance Committee, is to replace her compatriot Dr. Margaret Sleeper on the temporary committee set up in October to urgently review the endurance rules in order to address the issues currently affecting the discipline.
Sleeper, who was initially announced as one of the members of the Temporary Committee chaired by Dr Sarah Coombs, resigned after advising the FEI last week that she could be in breach of the FEI rules on mandatory rest periods after competing in two national events in the U.S.
Sleeper competed with her horse Syrocco Cadence in a national ride on Sept. 22, and the mare completed 137.6 of 160 kilometers before being eliminated for irregular gait (lameness). Sleeper then entered the mare for a second 160-kilometer national ride on Oct. 27, which she won, but was subsequently advised by her national federation that she could be in breach of FEI rest period rules.
This has now been confirmed to the FEI by the U.S. Equestrian Federation, and the FEI notified Sleeper on Dec. 4, that she has been given 100 penalty points under FEI Endurance Rules Articles 815.3.1 and 815.3.3, resulting in an automatic two-month suspension commencing Dec. 4. Article 815.3.1 states: “If a horse participates in a CEN during the mandatory rest period, the Athlete will receive an official notification from FEI Headquarters. The 100 penalty points will be applied on the date of the FEI notification and consequently the Athlete’s two-month suspension will take effect as of the date of the FEI notification.”
“We are sorry to lose Meg Sleeper, and we appreciate her honesty and transparency in immediately advising us of this issue, even before it had been confirmed by her national federation, but it was clear that her position on the temporary committee was untenable in these circumstances,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “This meant that we had to find a replacement, and the FEI Board has agreed that this should be Valerie Kanavy, who is an athlete, a former member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee and also an organizer, so she brings a wide range of experience to this new role.”
Sleeper, who has competed in FEI Endurance since 2005 and is also a trainer, official veterinarian and veterinary cardiologist, commented: “As soon as I realized that I could be in violation of FEI rest period rules I immediately contacted the FEI and my colleagues on the temporary committee and explained the situation. Once it was confirmed, I knew that the right thing to do was to resign. I made a mistake, and I bitterly regret it, but the work of the temporary committee will shape the future of my discipline, and that is too important to allow my mistake to deflect from that goal.”
Kanavy, who won individual gold with Pieraz at the 1994 FEI World Equestrian Games in the Hague (the Netherlands) and took the world title again four years later with High Winds Jedi in Abu Dhabi (United was a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee and the Athletes’ Representative on the Endurance Committee for the four-year term 2014-2018. She has been competing at the elite level of the sport for more than three decades and won her most recent FEI event, a CEI** 120-kilometer ride with Amir El Arab AT in July of this year, a week before celebrating her 72nd birthday.
The other members of the temporary committee are Tarek Taher, an international endurance athlete elected by his peers as a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee earlier this year; Pieter Wiersinga, chef d’équipe of the Dutch Endurance team, a police commissioner and former head of the mounted police in the Netherlands; and Dr. Tim Parkin, who was elected onto the FEI Veterinary Committee at last month’s FEI General Assembly and who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s Global Endurance Injuries Study.
The temporary committee is chaired by Dr. Sarah Coombs, a top FEI Endurance veterinarian who has many years’ experience of 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.
FEI Vice President Mark Samuel will also be involved in the work of the temporary committee and will help facilitate communications between the committee and the FEI Board.
The first in-person meeting of the temporary committee will be held at FEI Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on Dec. 12. This first meeting will establish the methodology to be used to fulfill the Committee’s remit to 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 will also use this first meeting to determine the crucial consultation process with relevant key people in order to tap into their expertise and in-depth knowledge of the discipline.