Radical changes may be needed in some areas of Endurance to ensure the welfare of horses, the head of a major equine charity says.
The comment came from World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers, who this week met with the Endurance Temporary Committee appointed by the FEI to review the discipline in a bid to return the sport to its roots of Endurance riding rather than Endurance racing.
The committee met with a total of 26 stakeholders representing each of the FEI Regional Groups, World Horse Welfare and the Alliance of Endurance Organisers.
The following day, the committee held its third in-person meeting to progress its agenda.
“We are heartened,” Owers told the committee, “that the FEI is taking the strong initiative to ‘take back’, in the FEI president’s words, the sport of endurance, placing far greater emphasis on equine welfare in what has been a rapidly growing, but all too often, controversial discipline.
“We hope the committee will come up with substantive, and in places radical, changes to better protect equine welfare and so secure the future of endurance.”
The gathering, at the FEI’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, allowed stakeholders to provide the committee with feedback on a series of topics, including the qualification system, mandatory rest periods, track design covering natural features, the number of loops, access to water, proximity of cars, elimination codes, heart rates and presentation times, the weight of athletes, officials, increased sanctions for anti-doping violations, limits on the number of starters and continuous crewing.
“It was a very positive meeting and it was very important for those who participated, that they were being asked for their contributions,” said Quentin Simonet, of France, who chairs the European Equestrian Federation’s Endurance Working Group.
“Our position is that we have to tackle the real problems which concern a fairly limited number of people. There are plenty of places where the sport of endurance is going very well.”
The committee’s meeting the following day provided members a chance to summarize the input from stakeholders.
FEI vice-president Mark Samuel, who is not a member but attends each meeting to ensure direct communications with the FEI Board, said the input and discussions from the previous day had been invaluable.
“We noted a great deal of alignment in thinking on most subjects and a notable spirit of engagement and optimism. The priority now is to distill our work into proposals and topics of interest for consideration at the FEI Sports Forum in April.”
The committee also discussed rule changes still to be addressed, such as mandatory rest periods, CEI1* distances, tack and equipment, and optimising the performance of FEI Officials, including education, appointments, rotation and evaluation.
This year’s FEI Sports Forum in mid-April will have a prominent focus on Endurance, with sessions on the second day dedicated to discussions on the future of the discipline.
Delegates will be provided with an update by the committee as part of the full consultation process before voting on proposed rules changes at the FEI General Assembly in Moscow in November.