The very survival of Endurance as an FEI discipline is at stake when national delegates vote on new rules for the sport at the upcoming FEI General Assembly, a respected advocacy group says.
Clean Endurance is urging all national federations to approve the 2020 FEI Endurance Rules during the annual gathering, being held in Moscow in mid-November.
The group, a global collective which combats fraud and doping in Endurance, and seeks to restore the traditional values of the discipline, says it has written to all 134 national federations ahead of the Moscow meeting.
It is asking them to vote in favour of the rules in order to ensure the survival of Endurance as an FEI discipline.
They told secretary generals around the world that their letter was a last resort to try to convey the emergency faced by Endurance, saying that a positive vote was of the utmost importance.
“Back in 2014, the FEI created the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) which concluded that emergency measures were needed to reduce the numbers of doped, injured and dying horses at Endurance competitions,” Clean Endurance told federations.
“Only a few of their 41 recommendations were implemented and no improvement was seen.
“In fact, the situation kept getting worse and worse, with ever-increasing catastrophic injuries and the FEI Tribunal overwhelmed with doping and abuse cases.
“Currently, two-thirds of all suspensions are for Endurance riders and trainers, over half of the administrative sanctions for doping involve Endurance horses (and the winter season is only just beginning), over half of all doping cases treated by the FEI Tribunal in 2019 were Endurance-related, and 80% of horse abuse sanctions imposed by the tribunal this year were for Endurance.
“Numerous other abuse cases involving Endurance horses are queuing up to be heard by the tribunal.
“An ever-increasing number of horses are collapsing and dying during Endurance competitions all over the world. This endangers all horse sports, including the Olympic disciplines, by bringing them into disrepute.”
The continuing problems led the FEI to create the Endurance Temporary Committee late last year, which was charged with creating rule proposals to protect the horses by putting them first, thus ensuring Endurance could survive as a FEI discipline, it said.
Clean Endurance pointed out that prior attempts at improving the Endurance Rules – in 2017, for example – had failed.
This time, it says, commercial or political interests cannot not be allowed to stop change.
It says national federations may have received presentations from those who prefer to continue with racing horses at high speeds over very long distances, arguing that this is the future.
Clean Endurance says national federations should instead ask themselves why the career span of a young horse sold to take part in these races is less than two years, and why the rate of positives to prohibited substances in that region is 12% – nearly 10 times greater than any other horse sport in any other country.
The group quoted the remarks of FEI President Ingmar de Vos from his opening speech at the 2019 FEI Sports Forum: “Regardless of all actions undertaken, all the decisions, and all the resources made available we still have the same issues: horse welfare and the integrity of the sport remain huge concerns in Endurance. There are still too many injuries and fatalities, and I can only talk about those that we know of. We collectively hold our breaths when the season in the Middle East starts again.
“After Tryon (the World Equestion Games), the FEI board unanimously agreed this had to stop. We need to bring horsemanship back to the heart of Endurance. It is our responsibility and this is the last chance. Endurance has great potential for the future, but not as it currently exists.”
Clean Endurance said in its letter: “Regardless of whether you as a national federation are actively involved in Endurance or not, we urge you to vote a resounding yes to all the Endurance rule propositions the FEI submits to you.
“These proposals are not perfect, but an important stepping stone to finally get Endurance under control and build a sustainable future for it, within the FEI.”