The FEI has acknowledged what it calls bold decisions by the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) in endurance, which will see a heart-rate reduction and tighter controls around cars and crewing.
The EEF announced the postponement of four scheduled rides just over a week ago amid the controversy swirling around a junior and young riders’ event at Al Wathba on January 30.
Video footage of the closing stages was condemned by endurance followers, who aired concerns over the chaotic procession of support crew running on to the course with slosh bottles to cool the clearly tiring horses. Five riders were subsequently disqualified for beating their mounts.
The EEF has confirmed the immediate resumption of endurance racing, with an international 160km race to go ahead today at Al Wathba, in Abu Dhabi.
The FEI confirmed today that it had received from the EEF its proposed list of measures to be implemented at international and national rides for the rest of the current season.
Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez, in a letter to national federations, said the EEF had taken bold decisions to protect the welfare of the horse. “We will continue to work together to ensure progress,” she said.
The measures received include, but are not limited to, heart rate reduction, changes to recovery times and rest periods between loops, and tighter controls around cars and crewing.
The proposals also include further measures for the UAE’s upcoming season, such as a new registration and qualification system for trainers as well as a grooms’ registration programme.
A meeting is scheduled today between the FEI and EEF, during which the exact details of the measures will be finalised.
“The FEI is standing firm on its position and will continue to focus efforts on introducing strong measures in Endurance in the UAE, working with the EEF,” Ibáñez said.
“The EEF is fully aware of what it is in the balance. The FEI is working with the EEF to overcome these challenges and is confident that agreed-upon measures will have a deep impact on the sport in the region long term.
“The FEI is pleased with the manner in which the EEF have swiftly addressed the issues.
“The actions proposed also go beyond the discussions held between both parties, and the FEI looks forward to finalising the exact details with the EEF.”
The race scheduled at Al Wathba today is the CEI 3* 160km HH The President of UAE Endurance Cup. The race, which has 125 riders registered to start, will proceed as originally included in the calendar. Twenty-five overseas horses will compete from a total of 15 countries, including the UAE.
The first prize is a Mercedes Benz four-wheel-drive. Second prize is a Range Rover Sport four-wheel-drive, and the eight other top finishers will receive a Nissan Patrol four-wheel-drive. A total of 60,000 dirhams will be distributed to those who successfully complete the ride.
A number of new measures will be implemented at the event, including changes to the presentation times and the heart rate reduction.
The FEI confirmed that its endurance director, Manuel Bandeira de Mello, will be present for the race.
The measures, however, might not be enough to placate some national federations, amid calls for the FEI to move the world endurance championships, scheduled to be held in Dubai this December, to a venue outside the UAE.
The Swiss federation has called for a venue change, and the board of the American Endurance Ride Conference has asked the US Equestrian Federation not to send an endurance squad if the event proceeds in Dubai as planned.
The EEF was handed a temporary suspension by the FEI last year over welfare concerns and non-compliance with the rules of endurance. The two organisations negotiated an agreement, resulting in the lifting of the suspension. The EEF undertook to adhere to the rules of endurance and agree to monitoring.