New endurance rules, sparked by concerns over excesses in the sport centered on the Middle East, have been approved by the FEI Bureau.
The rules will become operational on August 1, meaning they will be in place for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
The rule revisions are the end of a process that began last year, after several national equestrian federations in Europe raised concerns over what they viewed as excessive fracture rates and worrying numbers of doping infractions centered on the Group VII nations of Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain.
There were also concerns around how the rules have been applied in endurance in the region, with some believing some competitors and officials have been taking a cavalier approach.
The FEI Bureau said the rules approved were in line with the recommendations of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) and which received widespread support at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April.
The bureau also took steps to more formally recognise the previously stated conflict of interest within endurance of the FEI president, Princess Haya. Bureau members voted unanimously to officially mandate the 1st vice-president, John McEwen, to take over full responsibility for the entire endurance discipline during Princess Haya’s term of office.
The rule changes were implemented under a section of the FEI statutes that allows the bureau to pass resolutions in emergency situations that would normally require a vote at a General Assembly.
To have waited for the General Assembly in December would have delayed their implementation until January 1.
FEI Endurance Committee chairman Brian Sheahan welcomed the fast implementation of the new rules.
He described them as a great step forward for horse welfare and fair play.
“We strongly believe they address the key issues that the discipline has been facing.
“We are all aware that the discipline has faced a number of difficult challenges recently, but the combination of the ESPG, the consultation process with the national federations and other stakeholders, and the determination of the Endurance Committee and the team at FEI headquarters to address the issues within the discipline has resulted in some fundamental rule changes specifically aimed at improving horse welfare protocols and ensuring a level playing field globally.
“Now we can go forward with confidence to the World Equestrian Games, knowing that we have the right regulations and the right officials in place to ensure horse welfare and fair play, and also knowing that the athletes and their teams are confident in the rules and their implementation.
“While we will of course continually monitor the effectiveness of the new rules to make sure they are fit for purpose, this is definitely a major breakthrough for endurance that means that we can now turn the focus back onto the sport.”
Meanwhile, an Endurance Task Force is continuing its work. It is looking at ways that new technology can be used to ensure horse welfare and provide a level playing field for endurance events. Its proposals have yet to be presented, but could be in place in time for the World Equestrian Games.