Five endurance stables involved in the horse-beating incidents at Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi, last weekend (30 January) have been locally fined $100,000 dollars each, with their trainers suspended, as the horse welfare crisis in the United Arab Emirates escalates.
The FEI is also under growing public pressure to reallocate the 2016 world championships from Dubai.
Today, a petition calling for a new venue was launched on Change.org.
The Swiss Equestrian Federation has publicly suggested a boycott, while the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) also wants the venue moved.
In a letter to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), AERC president Michael Campbell said: “The suspension imposed on UAE by FEI last year has not made a lasting impression, with the exception of Dr Sheikh Sultan in Bou Thib.
“As the endurance affiliate in the US, AERC requests that USEF register strenuous objections with the FEI regarding the over-riding and equine abuse that continues in the UAE.
“This continued abuse is a blight on the sport of endurance riding throughout the world. The desert-style racing of UAE is not endurance riding as most other countries define it. Endurance communities in many other countries are expressing the same feelings to their national governing bodies.”
Five riders, including the first three past the post, were disqualified on Saturday from a 120km youth event, where a horse also died. Shocking footage showed the youngsters, abetted by numerous grooms illegally on the field of play, bullying and shoving exhausted horses to the finish.
This is the latest in a catalogue of violations this season, in breach of extra conditions imposed for the UAE suspension last March to be lifted. Many have caught on camera by YAS, the live-stream provider.
FEI endurance director Manuel Bandira de Mello flew to the UAE for an emergency meeting with the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) on Wednesday.
The FEI gave EEF until 11 February to provide new solutions, and suspended all rides till then.
EEF chairman Mohammed Al Kamali claimed the EEF had made “swift decisions.” Aside from fining the stables, the EEF has forfeited the licences of all grooms involved in the Al Wathba incident.
In future, the motorised cavalcades that assist illegal mobile crewing will be limited — something FEI rules have failed to achieve so far — and vehicles must display permits, as successfully trialled through “local” rules applied by Sheikh Sultan for Bou Thib.
“It is crucial we maintain the authenticity of endurance to ensure a bright and healthy future for the sport,” said Al Kamali.
“We will show a no-tolerance policy towards any such breach of the rules and regulations.”
Meanwhile, the FEI has declined to comment on the status of the 2016 world championship but said EEF was under no misunderstandings about the gravity of the situation.
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A FEI spokesman said: “No further events will be held until agreement on proposed measures to urgently address a number of serious issues in endurance in the region has been reached.
“The EEF fully understands what’s at stake under the terms of the agreement, and the fact that they have suspended the events and now taken action against the riders, trainers, grooms and stables involved in the incidents [last Saturday] clearly demonstrates they are aware there are problems and that they have to be urgently addressed.”
The Dutch equestrian federation also today lobbied the FEI directly with concerns.