Endurance group negotiated ‘trickiest of waters’ – CEO

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ESNZ CEO Jim Ellis
ESNZ CEO Jim Ellis

Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Jim Ellis has praised his British counterpart, Andrew Finding, for the way he has spearheaded a push toward reform in endurance sport.

Finding heads the FEI’s Endurance Strategy Planning Group, set up following a European outcry over the high level of doping infractions and excessive fracture rates in endurance competition in the Middle East.

Finding was centre-stage yesterday as his strategy group laid out its vision during a two-hour endurance session at the FEI’s General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland.

He told delegates from the world’s national federations: “The strategic plan we propose sets out a vision and a set of values we will expect everyone to adhere to if they genuinely want to be an active part of our family. Those who do not should be asked to leave us.”

Ellis, blogging from Montreux on the Equestrian Sports New Zealand website, wrote: “Finding is to be congratulated on steering the planning group through the trickiest of waters in what was a professional and occasionally brutal report on the status quo; he reported on ‘systemic’ failures – the word no organisation wishes to hear, especially with media present.”

Ellis wrote that the inequalities that existed in endurance were laid bare during the hearing.

Andrew Finding, Chair of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group.
Andrew Finding, Chair of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group. © Edouard Curchod

“In most countries where endurance is practised, even in Europe, the playing field is relatively level, but that ends abruptly when you view the sport in the Middle East, especially in the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

“In fact, and this is perhaps the key point, in those nations endurance is not really a sport at all. It is another form of the racing industry where rides are known as races, coaches are trainers with huge strings of horses and the fundamental purpose is compete at speed, rather than complete.

“This is not necessarily a criticism of these Middle Eastern nations, but rather an inevitability; the purpose of endurance in these nations is different than in Oceania.

“All this had led the FEI into a corner with doping infractions and high fracture rates (often leading to horse deaths in competition) generating almost unending bad press for the sport.”

The result, he said, had been a series of weak-sounding reviews and working groups.

“However, at today’s special session on endurance, the strategic planning group showed its teeth with a series of proposed measures which were more severe than many cynical observers would have expected.

“Bar one or two negative comments, the initial proposals for improvement were welcomed by delegates and a platform for change, if not the measures themselves, have been established.”

Earlier report on the endurance session at the General Assembly here.

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