The FEI is to review its horse identification processes and procedures for lodging complaints as part of a legal overhaul, following the collapse of the Marmoog horse-swapping allegations on a technicality.

In 2012, two different-looking Marmoogs were competed for the UAE by Sheikh Hamdan, Crown Prince of Dubai, in endurance rides at Numana, Italy, and at the world championships at Euston Park.

But although the FEI admits that it heard rumours at the time, it only relaunched an investigation when pictures uncovered by H&H contributor Pippa Cuckson were handed to the FEI in March this year (news, 27 March).

The FEI said: “It has become clear that, under the rules applicable at the time of the incident in 2012, essential deadlines were missed. Without legal proceedings being initiated within the specified timelines and through the correct channels, the FEI is unable to proceed with the case.”

“It is very disappointing that it took such a long time to come to this conclusion,” FEI secretary-general Ingmar De Vos added. “But this thorough investigation has allowed us to identify some loopholes in our own procedures with regard to the identification of horses through microchips and documents such as FEI passports, recognition cards and duplicates.”

At Euston, a white-faced Marmoog passed official identity checks using documentation issued to a snip-faced Marmoog. The chestnut at Numana is understood to be the “real” Marmoog, a French-bred previously called Prince De La Sabliere.

He was then renamed JSAS days after the investigation was revived, and was also found to have competed in the UAE in February this year with a different microchip ID.

The Marmoog case seems to have fallen foul of a tight, 30-minute deadline for lodging complaints.

The FEI told H&H the deadline will be reviewed, although the German federation is understood to be attempting to fast-track improvements at the FEI General Assembly in Baku this week (11-14 December).

H&H had already played a major role in highlighting these anomalies. When former editor Lucy Higginson and Pippa Cuckson successfully protested about horse abuse at the CEI Sakhir, Bahrain, their representations discussed the impracticality of the 30-minute deadline for endurance, where the field of play spans 160k and there is minimal chance of the ground jury witnessing offences in person.

The 2012 Numana and Euston CEIs were both managed by Maktoum-owned companies. The FEI statement noted that evidence about Marmoog was inconclusive, yet failed to explain why the CEIs, respective websites still carry prominent pictures of Hamdan on the two different Marmoogs.

The Swiss and Dutch federations said they both “regretted” the FEI had been forced to come to this decision despite “alarming facts concerning the identity of the horse.”

Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 December 2014