Organisers of the 2015 Open European Endurance Championship have waded into the debate over welfare in the sport, suggesting the issue is not restricted to just one equestrian discipline.
The head of the organising committee, Peter Christiansen, condemned the “unilateral focus” on endurance riding and specific countries, suggesting it was a “desperate attempt” to create a diversion from other equestrian disciplines which also had welfare issues, around the likes of rollkur.
Christiansen said the Association Molsridtet was formed in Denmark in 2009 to participate in the development of endurance riding and in 2012 was awarded the hosting of the FEI Open European Endurance Championship for 2015.
“We find the challenge regarding doping as predictable as it was in cycling in the 80s,” Christisansen said.
“The Association Molsridtet does not think doping, the neglect of horse-welfare and equality, is [the] prerogative [of] endurance,” he said.
“The Association Molsridtet considers the unilateral focus on endurance riding and specific countries as a desperate attempt to create a diversion from other equestrian disciplines with the purpose to distract the public focus from barring rollkur and other different kinds of animal cruelties.”
He continued: “The lack of focus on horse welfare and abuse of drugs is found in all equestrian disciplines, in all countries – also European – all over the world.
“No country can be held responsible for the use of doping. The countries can encourage the athletes not to use doping by local rules, but it can only be the rider who is responsible for the use of doping, and it can only be the rider who receives a penalty.”
Christiansen said all national federations must co-operate and focus on doping and horse welfare before it was too late.
He said the association encouraged the FEI to take responsibility as the world federation, and to secure progress in generating a constructive dialogue on how neglect of horses and the use of doping can be avoided in all disciplines, not only endurance riding.
Christiansen said the association acknowledged the support and desire of the FEI to make endurance riding a fair sport, with no doping and maximum focus on horse welfare and equality.
“The Association Molsridtet believes that the best path to execute the FEI rules is via a strong organizing committee in collaboration with officials who both will acknowledge the FEI rules, support fairness, horse welfare and also make the competition equal for each country, embracing all countries who want to participate.”
He said the organising committee would resist any moves to close the 2015 championships, and said the Association Molsridtet would not participate in the production of a championship which excluded members of the FEI from participation, whether from European or non-European countries.
In a separate statement, he added: “The Association Molsridtet does not believe that the right path is exclusion of nations from participation.”
“The Association Molsridtet would like to offer the FEI Open European Endurance Championship 2015 to be the unifying hotbed of a rethinking of endurance riding.”
Christiansen said it was important that the FEI reviewed regulations and constructed specific rules to improve horse welfare and reduce doping, while at the same time clarifying the regulations not only to judges and veterinarians, but to participants.