British equestrian officials, acknowledging the “major challenges” facing endurance, have announced plans to develop a new protocol for international rides held in the country, aimed at maximising horse welfare within the sport.
Endurance Great Britain and the British Equestrian Federation will work together to develop a long-term strategy for the United Kingdom.
The two bodies say horse welfare will be at its heart, with the first step being the creation of a new British protocol.
It will be established by a working group led by British Equestrian Federation board director Dr Tim Watson. The group will consist of key stakeholders including veterinarians, the national federation, event organisers and technical delegates.
It is intended that the British protocol will be implemented as a pilot study at British events in 2017. It will be refined after the season based on the experience gained from the events.
It is hoped it will be ready for the first FEI rides of the year, at Kings Forest in mid-April, Haywood Oaks in late-April, Royal Windsor in mid-May, and Euston Park later that month.
The protocol will, among other areas, look to set parameters around optimum speed, heart rate and recovery times appropriate to the competition environment in the UK.
It will also seek to go a lot further this year and will include policies on the appointment of officials, the event calendar and how to increase British participation rates.
The two bodies acknowledged that whilst steps to improve horse welfare in endurance had been initiated by others on the international stage, including the FEI, the ambition is that the British protocol will create rules specifically tailored to the British climate and terrain.
British Equestrian Federation chief executive Clare Salmon said horse welfare was an ongoing priority for both her federation and Endurance Great Britain.
“By initiating this new British protocol, we hope this will ensure a safe sport in which the wellbeing of the horses is paramount.
“The aim of the protocol is to implement modifications that will ultimately reform the sport by changing the mind-set of trainers and riders competing in this country.”