The Emirates Equestrian Federation has announced the immediate lifting of its temporary suspension of endurance rides, the Khaleej Times reports.
The federation announced the postponement of four scheduled rides just over a week ago amid the controversy swirling around a junior and young riders’ event at Al Wathba on January 30.
Video footage of the closing stages of the race was widely watched on social media and condemned by endurance followers, who aired concerns over the chaotic procession of support crew running on to the course with slosh bottles to cool the clearly tiring horses. Five riders were subsequently disqualified for beating their mounts.
Five trainers subsequently received bans and five stables were each fined $US100,000 by the national federation.
The FEI met with officials from the Emirates to address concerns about ongoing welfare issues, including at least seven catastrophic injuries. The FEI has acknowledged that speed appears to be a factor in the catastrophic breakdowns, and it hoped it could persuade UAE endurance officials to adopt rules similar to those used at Bouthieb, in Abu Dhabi, where speeds are monitored and the majority of prize-money is allocated to the best-conditioned horses.
The Khaleej Times quoted the chairman of the national federation’s board, Mohammed Al Kamali, as saying that the executive board had taken stock of the situation and found the conditions favourable to re-start the endurance rides with immediate effect.
The report said the national body had conducted an internal inquiry.
He was quoted as saying, at the conclusion of a meeting on Wednesday: “We will never compromise on the safety of the horses or the riders, and compliance with all rules and regulations is of utmost importance to the integrity of our sport.
“We have closely monitored the situation with the riders, horses and various stables and we are satisfied that everything is now in order to ensure the rides can be re-started with immediate effect,” he added.
He said the FEI had been kept informed about what was happening.
The board is reported to have formed a disciplinary committee and an appeals committee to operate and implement the rules and regulations laid down by the national federation.
The report did not make clear whether it had adopted any elements of the Bouthieb rules.
At the time of writing, no confirmation of the resumption of endurance racing in the UAE had been published in English on the Emirates Equestrian Federation website. The FEI website also carried no information on the move.
The UAE’s membership of the FEI was temporarily suspended last year over welfare concerns and non-compliance with the rules of endurance. The suspension was lifted only after the UAE agreed to abide by the rules of the sport and to allow monitoring.
The FEI issued a statement on February 5 in which it said it was concerned about recent endurance competition images emerging from the UAE.
The statement said the FEI had set a deadline of February 11 for the Emirates federation to come back with an agreement on proposed measures to address the issues.
“No further events will be held in the region until agreement on these measures has been reached,” it said.
It is not yet clear whether the UAE’s decision to resume endurance is a result of an agreement being reached with the FEI.