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A working party charged with developing new ideas for the sport of endurance submitted a raft of proposals to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) last week.

Among them were suggestions for a new qualifying system for riders; suspending horses and riders from competition after they are eliminated from a race; and more specialised training for vets and officials.

The FEI announced plans to overhaul the rules of endurance in the spring, following vast growth in the sport, and a number of equine deaths in recent years.

Under review is qualification, organisation, equine protection, education, legal controls and competition structure — with the welfare of the horse a major priority.

Newmarket vet Fred Barrelet led a group charged with looking at horse welfare.

“One of the criticisms of endurance is that people can get on a horse and six months later ride in an international-level competition,” he said. “A proper system of qualification could ensure that riders are competent to negotiate an endurance competition as they move up through the levels.”

Mr Barrelet’s group has also proposed more research is done on endurance, and that rest periods between rides be imposed.

“We’ve looked at whether a rider should be suspended if their horse is eliminated [at a vet check],” he said.

The introduction of an FEI-standard logbook and better training for officials have also been suggested, as well as ideas to make the sport more marketable and attractive to the public.
FEI endurance judge and technical delegate John Robertson has been chairing the group looking at competition structure.

“There’s a lot of talk about different finishes, distances and the removal of weights for endurance horses,” he said. “But nothing has been decided yet, these are only ideas.”

Ian Williams, FEI head of endurance who presented the report, said: “The task force will produce their final recommendations by March 2008, after which the proposals will be sent to national federations for comment.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (29 November, ’07)