The head of Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ), responding to the harrowing demise of Splitters Creek Bundy in an Abu Dhabi endurance race, says her organisation will take a strong stance against any individual or organisation that fails to endorse high standards of horse welfare.
Chief executive Vicki Glynn added her voice to the rising tide of international concern over the death of the Australian-bred horse, who suffered two broken forelegs during the Al Reef national endurance event late last month.
“Endurance is an extreme sport and protecting our horses has to be the highest priority, always over and above the importance of the competition,” Glynn said.
“While we do not know all the facts in this case, ESNZ continues to emphasise that horse welfare is always our foremost concern, and we will take a strong stance against any individual or organisation who does not equally endorse that.”
She said the organisation wanted to express its deep sadness at what it described as the appalling events surrounding the horse.
“Naturally, this has caused extreme concern amongst equestrians right across the globe and everyone acknowledges that this situation cannot be allowed to continue in the sport of endurance.
“While accepting that this was deemed a national event over which the FEI has very limited control, the FEI has advised national federations that it is investigating the horse welfare incidents at the Al Reef endurance event.”
ESNZ fully supported the FEI’s attention to the matter, she said.
“The death of any horse in our sports is completely unacceptable but, if it does occur, steps must be taken immediately to learn from the tragedy and make changes to ensure the risk of a recurrence is eliminated wherever possible.”
She said the national governing body has supported recent endurance rule changes, instituted in August last year by the FEI to protect horses and support fair play, even though the rule changes have created challenges for the sport within New Zealand.
“The ESNZ Endurance Board will work with other like-minded national federations to influence positive change within Group VII countries,” Glynn said.
“While many competitors in these countries are equally appalled by the tragedy in the Al Reef Cup, changes to the rules, the culture and behaviour will all be needed to ensure a fair and harmonious sport.”