Al Reef fatality: Investigation our top priority, says FEI president

FEI President Ingmar de Vos.
FEI President Ingmar de Vos.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos has written to national federations amid the growing storm around the Abu Dhabi endurance race in which a horse shattered his two front legs, assuring them that the world governing body’s investigation was a top priority.

Splitters Creek Bundy suffered his catastrophic leg breaks during the Al Reef Cup in Abu Dhabi late last month. The race was a national event run under the rules of the United Arab Emirates Equestrian Federation and was not under the jurisdication of the FEI.

An image circulated in social media, and subsequently published by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, showed the Australian-bred horse standing helplessly, having snapped both his cannon bones.

Its circulation has prompted a storm of comment in social media, as attention again focuses on the sport of endurance within the Group VII nations of the Middle East, where a more aggressive form of racing is favoured.

The desert racing of the Middle East tends to occur on flat, fast, non-technical courses which encourage more speed than that able to be achieved on the more technical courses favoured elsewhere.

De Vos, who took over the FEI presidency in December, said he was shocked by what he called the terrible images that came out of the Abu Dhabi event. He said he shared the concerns raised by many within the equestrian community.

“Incidents like this are absolutely unacceptable.

“Although the Al Reef Cup was a national event organised under the jurisdiction and the rules of the United Arab Emirates National Federation, we have raised our concerns with the UAE Federation and have requested a detailed report into the circumstances surrounding these incidents.

“The FEI takes this matter very seriously and the information received from the UAE national federation will be used to decide what measures and further steps can be taken to avoid similar occurrences in the future.”

De Vos said he had asked the team at FEI headquarters to prioritise the matter, “while also respecting good governance and the democratic process”.

“We are all too aware that there have been major issues in endurance over the last few years and I, together with you all, am determined to solve them.

“The FEI requires each and every one of its member federations to respect the principles of the Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse and, as the discipline develops and grows in different parts of the world, we must ensure that the same standards of horse welfare apply in all geographical regions.

“The regulations imposed by the FEI for international endurance are amongst the most stringent in world sport.

“No other equine sport provides a greater level of veterinary attention and support to each individual horse than endurance, and our veterinary officials, judges and stewards work together throughout the event to safeguard horse welfare, and while we as the international governing body has no jurisdiction over national events, we urge national federations to implement those welfare principles at a national level.

“Please be assured that I have made this investigation our absolute top priority so that together we can maintain the welfare of the horse as a central pillar of the FEI’s work.”

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