The rules of endurance will be completely overhauled during the next two years, to reflect the growth and changing trends in the sport.

“The principle of horse and rider overcoming challenges over a tough course will remain, but more or less everything else will change,” said Ian Williams, head of endurance at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

The sport currently operates under rules originally devised in 1980.

Mr Williams added: “Endurance has completely changed in 10 years. We now have a massive cross-section of standards, and an elite level we didn’t have before. And horses undoubtedly go faster. We have a lot of work ahead, but it can only be good.”

Endurance has grown hugely since it became an FEI sport in 1982. Last year, some 393 rides took place, 480% up on the 82 held in 2000. Endurance now sits behind show jumping and eventing as the third most popular FEI discipline. But its history was marred by the death of two horses during the endurance ride at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez.

Six separate areas for review were identified at the World Endurance Forum in Paris (31 March-1 April), which was attended by 70 delegates from 31 worldwide national federations.

The review process will finish when the new rules are written and ratified by the FEI general assembly in spring 2009.

Under scrutiny will be qualification for championships; organisation of competitions; equine protection – welfare, training and research; the education and legal controls over riders whose horses are spun with metabolic problems, and the structure of the sport.

The 160km championship distance will be unaffected.

“People felt passionately about keeping it,” said Mr Williams.

Britain’s Len Beach, an international team and FEI vet, whose wife, Pauline, has competed internationally, also attended the forum. He told H&H that the positive attitude and team spirit during the weekend was “tremendous”.

“Everyone knew that things had to be tightened up and that we had to present ourselves differently,” he said. “I came away excited that so many delegates were coming up with the same ideas for change.”

The FEI is inviting national federations to volunteer members with the relevant experience to explore each topic.

Mr Williams added: “We will appoint a team of two per [topic], and they will produce an update of their work each month, which will be posted on the [FEI] website. An interim report will be produced in October, with the final one coming out next March or April.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 April, ’07)