FEI must tackle endurance problems, say US officials

gallop-legs-endurance_2546The governing body for long-distance riding in the United States wants the FEI and US Equestrian Federation (USEF) to show their commitment to endurance reform, following the distressing demise of a competition horse in Abu Dhabi with two broken front legs.

The harrowing image of 12-year-old Australian-bred Splitters Creek Bundy, circulated widely in social media and published by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, shows the horse standing helplessly, having snapped both his cannon bones in the Al Reef Cup, staged in Abu Dhabi on January 31.

The 26-member board of the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) has expressed its anger and disgust over the death of the horse, along with two others at the endurance event.

It is calling on the FEI and USEF to demonstrate its commitment to change and reform over what it called the egregious offenses occurring within the international arena of endurance riding.

The board of directors said its members were appalled by the deaths, noting that the bay gelding had failed to finish in his last three competitions, all in the United Arab Emirates. He had previously raced seven times at distances from 80km to 120km at an average speed of 22.6kmh (14.04mph).

“AERC is appalled at the Al Reef tragedy, and does not condone or support this type of riding or treatment of horses,” its president, Dr Michael Campbell, said. “This is not what we stand for.”

The AERC noted ongoing criticism of riders from the United Arab Emirates – a member of FEI Regional Group VII – over equine welfare issues, positive drug tests, and rule breaches. Most of the endurance races staged there are on flat, fast, non-technical desert courses.

The organisation, which sanctions more than 700 rides each year across North America, said that while the FEI brought in new rules to improve equine welfare in August last year, forward measurable progress remained slow.

It noted the FEI’s position that the Al Reef race was a national event and out of its jurisdiction.

Early last year, the AERC was considering withdrawal from participation in international endurance competition until the FEI could demonstrate adequate control and reform of the crisis.

Its board urged the FEI and USEF to show its commitment to resolving the issues.

Meanwhile, the Australian Endurance Riders Association Incorporated (AERA) said it had conveyed its concerns over images of the injured horse to Equestrian Australia, which is the governing body for international endurance competition in the country.

“We have asked that our concerns are expressed to the FEI and we await a response,” it said in a statement on its Facebook page.

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