The Emirates Equestrian Federation has fined five stables linked to violations during last weekend’s junior and young riders’ 120km ride at Al Wathba $100,000 each as it works to placate an international endurance community incensed over the treatment of horses.
In other developments, the FEI has written to member nations assuring them that no further events will be held in the region until agreement on measures to safeguard horse welfare had been reached.
The Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) has promised to “restructure the sport of endurance riding in the UAE” – a sign it may be willing to impose speed-limiting rules similar to those so successfully adopted at the Bouthieb endurance venue in Abu Dhabi.
The Bouthieb rules also apportion the majority of prize-money to the best-conditioned horses, providing further incentive for the riders to prioritise horse welfare.
Late on Thursday, the EEF’s executive board, headed by Mohammed Al Kamali, decided to suspend five endurance riders, while also temporarily suspending all endurance rides and activity in the country at least until February 11.
The federation acknowledged there had been violations and abuse of rules during last weekend’s 120km race for young riders. Fifty-five horses participated, with five riders disqualified for beating their mounts.
The board also decided to ban five trainers who were overseeing the horses and riders, while the grooms of the horses will forfeit their licences. It also imposed the $100,000 fines on each each of the five stables “involved in the violations”.
Board members also decided that, from now on, all endurance villages, clubs and stables would be required to adhere to a uniform process of registering all service crew associated with the sport.
All personnel will be given permits, which they will have to have on display during the course of the rides in the future.
Al Kamali said the safety of horses and compliance with all rules and regulations was of utmost importance to the integrity of any sport.
“It is crucial that we maintain the authenticity of endurance to ensure a bright and healthy future for the sport,” he said.
He promised that the national federation would demonstrate a no-tolerance policy towards any such breach of the rules and regulations in the future.
He said he regretted the suspension of all endurance activities in the UAE. “But we need to make our stance clear about rules and regulations that have been put in place to run this sport.
“The ultimate objective is to protect the sport of endurance riding, and one of the ways to do so is to ensure that all rules and regulations are complied by one and all who practice the sport or are associated with it.”
Meanwhile, the FEI, in a letter to national federations, said it was “extremely concerned about recent endurance competition images emerging from the UAE”.
It reiterated the view of the FEI’s endurance director, Manuel Bandeira de Mello, that speed was a major factor in catastrophic injuries in the sport in the UAE, and it is necessary to introduce measures to slow down the horses.
The postponement of four events up until February 11 followed meetings between the FEI and the EEF, both in Switzerland and the UAE over the past week, the FEI said. This was to provide time to reach agreement on measures to urgently address what it said were a number of serious issues in endurance in the region.
“No further events will be held in the region until agreement on these measures has been reached,” the FEI said.
The world governing body continued: “We have very stringent rules and values which place the horse and the welfare of the horse above and beyond any sporting ambitions and are working tirelessly to ensure that these values are upheld at both international and national level competitions.
“Although the FEI does not have jurisdiction over national events, we are absolutely against all forms of equine abuse.
“We have made some progress in recent times but clearly there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the welfare of the horse in sport globally. This will not happen overnight.
“Changing perceptions and practices requires not only sanctions but also education and dialogue. We are doing this and we will continue to do so.
“Please rest assured that we are committed and dedicated to eradicating horse abuse in competition.”