Endurance GB’s (EGB) “in principle” agreement to a blanket sponsorship from Sheikh Mohammed’s Meydan corporation is provoking a storm of protest on its members-only forum.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, includes a new training programme and provision of electronic equipment for FEI rides in the UK.

Rides will be reinstated at Sheikh Mohammed’s British base, Euston Park. They were cancelled in 2013 when UAE doping and horse injury scandals drew worldwide media attention.

Some members are threatening to leave EGB or stop officiating if it goes ahead.

Negotiations between British Equestrian Federation (BEF) chief executive Andrew Finding and Meydan CEO Saaed Al Tayer — who served together on the FEI Endurance Strategic Planning Group — were leaked to H&H in June, but members were notified only after last week’s deadline for items to be put to the AGM on 22 November.

One poster on the forum wrote: “I can smell the bullshit from Yorkshire. The reason none of this is on ‘our’ website is because they didn’t want the membership to know it’s a done deal and we’ve sold the society’s soul.”

UAE riders have received FEI yellow cards for offences including horse abuse this year. Asked if the UAE had turned over a new leaf, EGB chairman John Hudson said: “Clearly EGB cannot answer for the BEF or the UAE. However, from personal objective observation by EGB officials attending all FEI rides in Britain this year, there has been no evidence of any significant breaches of FEI rules by riders of any nation, or of horse welfare issues.

“These observations, together with the enhanced FEI rules and their stronger enforcement by impartial officials, provides confidence that future events in GB will be run to the same high standards or better.”

He added that EGB is financially sound and not reliant on the Meydan backing.

“EGB believes that inclusiveness, not exclusion, is the key to improving standards and culture,” he said.

This news story was first published in H&H magazine (9 October 2014).