Plan to increase minimum age to protect young endurance horses

  • The FEI is debating an increase to the minimum age for horses in international endurance, with the age Arabian horses reach maturity and their long-term wellbeing in mind.

    It is looking at upping the minimum age of horses in one-star rides from six to seven years old. This would not affect the “novice” qualification level, which is open to horses aged five and above.

    “Many of the Arabian horses which predominate in the sport of endurance do not reach physical maturity by the age of six,” states the FEI proposal, adding that the suggested change is “to protect younger horses from competing at excessive speed in CEI*”.

    The idea was debated during the FEI Sports Forum (24–25 April). Some suggested a speed cap for younger horses instead of a change to the minimum age, others voiced concerns about the impact an extra year of care would have on breeders. An appeal was made to all federations to share their data and research with the FEI.

    Equine vet and deputy chairman of the FEI endurance committee Sarah Coombs explained the reasoning behind the proposal and also agreed to consider the idea of capped speeds for horses stepping up to CEI*.

    “All the time, we’re looking at our rules through the lens of what’s best for horse welfare, as of course you are as well,” said Dr Coombs.

    “There’s emerging evidence across the disciplines that the excessive demands put on young horses shortens the length of their athletic careers, and possibly puts those horses at risk. As everyone in the room knows, different horses mature at different rates.

    “What we were very conscious of is you have a horse going from a fixed speed national ride and then straight into his first CEI*, where we know the speeds are highest.

    “We wanted to do something about that juxtaposition to protect the interests of these younger horses and hopefully mean they will go on for a long time.”

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