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A prominent Italian horse welfare charity is continuing to demand an official investigation into the death of UAE horse after an international endurance ride in Sardinia — despite being ignored by Italian authorities.

Django De Vere was rushed to a veterinary hospital, where he died after finishing 3rd in the 120km “Endurance Lifestyle” ride on the island of Sardinia on 31 August.

Sonny Richichi of the mainland-based Italian Horse Protection Association (IHP) demanded the provincial public prosecutor seize the body for post mortem, and that the Italian equestrian federation (FISE) investigate. Richichi says both bodies ignored his repeated requests.

On 8 October he asked the FEI to intervene. 2 days later he received a short reply, stating: “We have now forwarded your note to FISE and asked them to follow up. The FEI is monitoring closely.”

Richichi was concerned about Django’s extreme heart rates — recorded as returning to normal in 37 and 52 secs respectively at the first two vet-gates but taking 30 minutes, significantly longer than any other horse, at the last.

“Is it possible that a horse that has just covered 30 kilometers at 29kph can return to a normal heart rate in just 37 seconds?” asked Richichi.

Endurance is popular in Italy, with over 20 FEI rides in 2013.

“The FISE should be investigating this to safeguard their credibility and also to prove factually how little attention was paid to the horses’ well-being,” Richichi added. “IHP receives quite a few reports of apparent abuse and inadequate vet gates.” Richichi’s charity is the official rescue centre for horses seized by the courts in welfare cases.

“We are not satisfied with the FEI response, which is not a real response, at the moment,” he went on. “Nothing can now be achieved from a carcass inspection. But in our opinion there are clear indicators that something strange happened during the race.”

Django De Vere’s rider, 16-year-old Saeed Ahmad Jaber al Harbi‏, was also the rider of Eclipse at the world young riders’ championship in July and of Rev Beethoven at the senior championships — both of who were disqualified for lameness.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (17 October, 2013)