A new Injuries Surveillance System is being rolled out in international endurance as the FEI struggles to allay the escalating crisis about doping and life-threatening stress fractures in the Middle East.

Dr Tim Parkin of the University of Glasgow has been commissioned to conduct the study, having previously researched injuries in thoroughbreds for several racing authorities around the world.

However, his data will only extend to diagnoses at competitions.

The FEI admits “there is no obligation for organisations to report fatalities to the FEI outside of competition”, inevitably casting doubt on the accuracy of official FEI figures about injury-induced euthanasia.

The FEI says that worldwide there were 10 fatalities in endurance this year, 14 in 2012 and 11 in 2011, but critics believe there are dozens a year in the Middle East alone.

The FEI says that reporting of injuries has taken place for many years as part of the veterinary delegates’ duties.

“With the benefit of new technology, we have now been able to update the system to be more comprehensive, including the ability to better assess risk factors as part of the Injuries Surveillance System,” said a spokesman.

To date, veterinary studies have merely hypothesised that the higher speeds favoured by Middle Eastern riders trigger fractures.

2 UAE horses excluded from the current fatality list are Eclipse (euthanased after the World Young Riders Championship at Tarbes in July), and Django De Vere (who died off-site after exhibiting extreme heart recovery rates at Sardinia in August).

Both horses were ridden for the Maktoum family-owned Fazaa team in Europe this summer by Saaed Ahmad Jaber Al Harbi who, though only 16, is the world number 6 ranked rider.

The FEI told H&H it was still awaiting confirmation from the UAE that the horses are now dead.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (7 November, 2013)