The FEI has removed the World Endurance Championships from Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai International Endurance City (DIEC) and stated that no more FEI events of any type will be sanctioned in Dubai until further notice.
This is the latest development in the FEI’s ongoing battle to crack down on rule breaking and improve the welfare of horses taking part in desert endurance competitions in the UAE.
The decision was widely anticipated following the disaffiliation of the World Endurance Championships test event, The Crown Prince Dubai Cup on 19 March. The ride took place under national rules after a request from FEI endurance director Manuel Bandeira De Mello to set the final loop heart rate at 56bpm, intended to slow horses down, was ignored.
A FEI spokesman said: “Despite the hard work and progress to date, the FEI Bureau is of the opinion that the UAE federation is not currently in a position to guarantee that horse welfare would be fully protected at an FEI World Endurance Championship.”
The other emirates which make up the UAE are unaffected by the FEI’s announcement. These include Abu Dhabi where Sheikh Sultan Al Nayhan has successfully pioneered reforms to improve horse welfare at Bou Thieb.
Federations outside the UAE are now being invited to bid to host the world championships by 18 May and the new host venue is expected to be revealed on 14 June.
The event was originally due to take place in on 10-17 December, but could now be held in September or October instead. The qualifying period will also be adjusted to take this into account.
The FEI also stated that “rule breaches are absolutely unacceptable” and said it intended to work even more closely with the UAE federation to ensure it fully implemented the FEI’s rules and regulations, as well as compliance with the July 2015 agreement to guarantee the welfare of horses taking part in both national and international events.
The UAE federation was suspended in an unprecedented move by the FEI last March after an investigation into “major horse welfare issues” and “non-compliance with FEI rules and regulations” in endurance.
The federation was reinstated four months later on the basis of a “legally binding agreement” designed to ensure that horse welfare would be “fully respected and that FEI rules will be stringently enforced”, however rule breaches and welfare concerns continue unabated.
For more on this story, see Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 14 April