The FEI and national governing bodies around the world have started to react to the Al Reef endurance scandal — as pictures of Splitters Creek Bundy, the horse with two broken forelegs, continue to cause a storm on social media nearly two weeks after the event.
Images captured from the Dubai Racing TV livestream showed Bundy collapsing over his shattered cannon bones towards the end of the second loop of the 120k Al Reef Cup in Abu Dhabi on 31 January.
Because the race was a CEN (national) event, a FEI spokesman said it was out of FEI jurisdiction and initially declined to comment.
However, although it has issued no further media statement, it has emerged that the FEI has now demanded a full report from the UAE equestrian federation. The FEI confirmed to H&H that it had communicated its actions to members of the public who have contacted the FEI and added: “The FEI condemns cruelty to horses in any form.”
Endurance GB has also emailed members to advise it has asked the British Equestrian Federation to write to the FEI.
The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) is threatening stronger action. At its annual convention in Reno next month, the AERC board will consider a motion to ban members from participating in any non-FEI endurance ride in Group VII (Middle East). Michael Campbell, AERC chairman, said: “AERC is appalled at the Al Reef tragedy. AERC does not condone or support this type of riding or horse treatment.”
In contrast, the New Zealand national governing body of endurance has asked for links to articles and pictures about Al Reef to be removed from its members’ forum.
“Bundy” was one of three reported fatalities at Al Reef. His rider, Hamaid Al Falasi, only 16 years old, completed the first loop at 28.5kph and had Bundy up with the front runners when he legs gave way.
There are unconfirmed reports that it took a vet 20 minutes to arrive and that no help was offered by any of the dozens of four-wheel drives who habitually keep apace of the horses.
The UAE calendar has 19 FEI rides this winter, but they are mostly 80k qualifiers. The vast majority of longer distance rides are CENs, under less rigorous UAE rules, though one notable exception is this weekend’s (14 February) Presidents Cup — a 160km CEI.
Marianne Ironside, who coordinates an informal “monitoring” group made up of concerned endurance riders in Europe, said: “The FEI needs get involved more with national federations so that clean sport is practiced in national races.”
In another twist, Australian trainer Jay Randle had been trying to find out about the Al Reef fatalities, which were rumoured soon after the ride, before she saw the pictures two days later and recognised Bundy as a horse she trained for several years prior to his owner-breeder selling him to the Maktoum-owned SAS stables, in 2010. He is standard-bred/Arab cross, who completed Australia’s iconic Tom Quilty ride.
The FEI’s initial silence has been strongly has been criticised by prominent bloggers around the world. New Zealand’s Neil Clarkson (HorsetalkNZ) accused the FEI of “using its get-out-of-jail-free card” while Denmark’s Julie Taylor (EponaTV) said: “If the FEI can’t do anything about this, the FEI needs to fix things so that it can.”