Proposals to separate high-speed endurance into a separate discipline, or exile it from the FEI altogether, have been floated by national federations.
They are impatient for change amid reports of ongoing horse injuries in the sport in the MIddle East.
Vets and judges cite anecdotal reports of 20 fatalities at the mid-way point of the Gulf’s winter season. But the FEI has been informed of six equine fractures, two of which were fatal.
Fractures have been attributed to average speeds of 26-27kph in the straighter, flatter desert rides.
Calls to split the sport
The FEI set up the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) last year in an attempt to address concerns. At the FEI general assembly in November, the ESPG announced 37 measures aimed at cleaning up the sport.
Since then, 18 national federations from the 50 active in endurance have commented on the proposals in detail and have been largely supportive.
But Jacky Buchmann, president of the Belgian federation, thinks the racing-style sport should be exiled to a new, non-FEI jurisdiction.
Australia recommends splitting the sport into “racing” and “classic” divisions, while other respondents suggest various other means of severance.
The USA national governing body, the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), wants more “transparency” about injuries reporting. It is considering barring FEI rides from being hosted by US national events if the FEI does not influence change in the Middle East.
But there is internal discord. AERC Hall of Fame rider Robert Ribley says that would “do nothing to improve the welfare situation for horses the other side of the world, but will assuredly accelerate the demise of 100-mile rides in our home country”.
UAE avoids surveillance
The FEI beefed up injuries surveillance last autumn, but admits it cannot know what happens when injured horses are shipped off site.
Last year, the death of the Maktoum-owned Django De Vere after winning in Italy in August provoked a social media storm. But FEI enquiries faltered because federations are not required to notify them about deaths arising from rides of non-championship status.
In a move suggesting that it is not yet wholly buying into reform, the UAE has disaffiliated some major FEI rides, demoting them to national status. For this reason, the FEI cannot pursue allegations of four fractures at Al Wathba National Day on 7 December.