Twelve measures have been agreed by the FEI and the Emirates Equestrian Federation in a bid to end the endurance problems in the United Arab Emirates which have damaged the sport.
The changes were signed off during talks held in Abu Dhabi in the last few hours between FEI endurance director Manuel Bandeira de Mello and senior officials from the Emirates national body – its vice-president, Mohammad Alkamali, secretary general Taleb Dhaher Al Mheiri, and executive board member Faisal Al Ali.
The four worked through the exact measures to be implemented at international and national endurance events in the UAE for the rest of the current season, which ends early in April.
The twelve approved measures, which will be applied for the rest of the UAE Endurance season, are:
- Reducing the number of events for the rest of the season. Events for the rest of the international season will be confirmed on the FEI calendar; the EEF will confirm its national events in due course.
- Limiting the number of horse-and-rider combinations entered into each international and national event to 150.
- Heart-rate presentation times will be reduced to between 56 and 60 bpm for all loops in one-star competitions, and in the final loop for two- and three-star CEI (international) and CEN (national) races.
- Recovery times will be reduced to between 10 and 15 minutes for all loops in one-star and in the final loop for two-and three-star CEIs and CENs.
- Heart rates and recovery times will be monitored closely by the FEI and EEF, with action taken where needed. If athletes exceed these limits they will be eliminated.
- Rest periods between loops will be reviewed by veterinary officials to determine whether 50-minute holds will be more beneficial to the horses.
- The last 2-5km of the final loop will be designated and controlled so that no cars or crews can gain access.
- In the final loop, crewing in the form of offering cooling water bottles will only be allowed at designated crewing points every 2-5km – no other crewing will be allowed.
- In all CEI 3* and CEI 4* events, all horses will be confined in secure overnight stabling, in accordance with FEI regulations.
- The official TV broadcasters have been named; as such the film/video recordings are the official record of the event and hence legal actions may be taken against the violators of any regulation viewed on this footage.
- Crews will be identified with numbered bibs that match the number of the horse to enable easy identification; should a horse be eliminated from the competition, the bibs will be surrendered immediately; only those people with a numbered bib matching that of the horse still in competition will be allowed to crew or to accompany the horse at any time during the event.
- A ride briefing will be held at each event to review regulations, and to update everyone involved of any changes in regulations for the event. Attendance will be compulsory; failure to attend shall result in immediate elimination from the event.
- All officials will now be appointed by the EEF instead of Organising Committees; no non-EEF appointed officials will be able to officiate at international and national events.
The talks followed recent meetings between the FEI and the EEF in both Switzerland and the UAE, after which the EEF postponed four endurance events so that agreement could be reached on proposed measures to urgently address serious welfare-related issues in endurance in the region.
The CEI 3* 160km HH The President of UAE Endurance Cup, attended by Mr De Mello, took place on Saturday in Al Wathba, following agreement with the FEI on the measures.
The FEI said in a statement that the event, held at the Emirates International Endurance Village, was well organised, with the winning combination posting an average speed of 26.3kmh. It said all horses crossed the line in good health.
FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said after the agreement was announced: “We need to change hearts as well as minds, and the solution lies in education and dialogue, as well as taking a tough line with sanctions.
“The Emirates Equestrian Federation has been bold, taking stringent action as seen recently with the suspension of events and sanctioning athletes and trainers, clearly demonstrating their commitment to work together with the FEI to eradicate the incidents that have tarnished the sport.
“We will continue to work together to ensure progress.
“Protecting horses comes first and we are determined that this specific value is upheld at international and national-level endurance competitions.
“While the FEI does not have jurisdiction over national events, we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that changes at an international level are also felt nationally.
“It is clear for everyone what is at stake, and the FEI is working closely with the EEF to make sure that any challenges to run the sport within the FEI’s clearly mapped rules are overcome, and that everyone in the sport understands the importance of standing by the measures implemented for the rest of the season.
“By continuing to work together we feel we can greatly impact the sport in the region long term.”