Two international endurance events set to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) next month have been removed from the FEI calendar in what the world governing body calls an emergency measure to protect horse welfare and preserve the integrity of its rules at FEI events.
Secretary general Sabrina Zeender took the action following the first meeting of the new FEI Executive Board, chaired by president Ingmar De Vos.
The move follows a mandate from the FEI Bureau to the Executive Board to urgently investigate horse welfare issues and non-compliance with FEI rules and regulations in the UAE.
The Executive Board will now finalise its recommendations to the bureau.
De Vos said after the Executive Board meeting at FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland: “We have made this our top priority and will make our conclusions as speedily as possible so that the recommendations can be presented to the bureau for urgent consideration.”
The moves are part of the ongoing fallout from the harrowing images of the demise of an Australian-bred endurance horses, Splitters Creek Bundy, during the Al Reef Cup in Abu Dhabi late last month.
The horse was pictured with two broken forelegs and was euthanised soon after.
The images, one of which was published by Britain’s Daily Telegraph in its print edition, caused a storm in social media, with the FEI widely criticised for being too slow to act.
The Al Reef Cup was run under the national rules of the UAE Equestrian Federation. Being a national event limits the FEI’s jurisdiction.
The FEI brought in widely supported tighter endurance rules last year after a long consultation process. The changes came about over growing concerns within some national federations over concerning fracture rates, doping infractions and what some considered was a cavalier approach to the rules of the endurance within some nations within the FEI’s Group VII, which covers the Middle East.
The new rules include additional dope testing, injury surveillance and reporting, athlete penalties for equine injuries, and extended rest periods. Other measures increase the responsibility and accountability of riders, trainers and officials, as well as steps to address any conflicts of interest.
However, they appeared to spark an increase in endurance events in the region run outside the FEI’s jurisdiction, raising fears that the new rules would have little impact on the welfare of horses competing in those contests.
The removal of the two international events from the FEI calendar is the first action announced by the FEI since it said it was investigating.
Its ability to remove the events is covered in the FEI General Regulations. Article 112 states: “The Secretary General shall have the authority to remove any Competition and/or Event from the Calendar if justified circumstances relating to a Competition or the Event are established.”
The Executive Board meeting at which the issues were discussed was attended by De Vos; Zeender; first vice-president chairman of the Jumping Committee John Madden, of the United States; second vice-president and chairman of FEI Group VII, Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, of Bahrain; the chairman of the Dressage Committee, Frank Kemperman, of the Netherlands; the chairwoman of the Athletes’ Committee, Maria Gretzer, of Sweden.