Olympic riders among top names to campaign against endurance scandals

  • An online petition demanding the FEI removes the December 2016 world endurance championship from Dubai reached 4,000 signatures over night (Tuesday 9 – Wednesday 10 February).

    It has also attracted high-profile support from outside endurance, with British Olympic rider Jennie Loriston-Clarke among signatories from all over the world.

    The petition was launched by the continental-based “clean endurance” community last Friday afternoon (5 February). The group says it will advise FEI president Ingmar de Vos of the interim results before the FEI meets the Emirates Equestrian Federation tomorrow (11 February) to discuss solutions to the latest welfare scandals that brought UAE endurance to a halt on 4 February.

    However, the petition will remain open.

    Jennie is among the hundreds commenting on Change.org’s public page about the desert-style racing in the UAE. She wrote: “I think it is dreadful abuse of horses. Endurance was fine until money and speed came in to it.”

    FEI showjumping judge Jane Pelly wrote: “FEI says horse welfare is paramount – it clearly isn’t in the UAE.”

    Adding his voice this morning (Wednesday 10 February), British Horse Society Fellow and former chairman Patrick Print said: “This treatment of horses is neither sportsmanship or horsemanship.”

    Sarah Ashford of JSA Stud is among many to address the reputational damage caused to the FEI. She wrote: “Whatever the reasons that have prevented this being resolved in a country first brought to the full glare of the world’s media back in 2013, enough time and discussions have elapsed that the only option left is to expel the EEF.

    “I would not want a global body that would continue not to act sufficiently decisively, representing me, or my sport any longer, a feeling most of us as professionals share. This would leave the FEI in the same situation that FIFA and the IAAF currently find themselves in, which only serves to permanently damage the whole of the range of disciplines within equestrianism.”

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    The FEI suspended the UAE in March 2015. Since its reinstatement, there has been little evidence of change. Matters came to a head on 30 January when, in a 120km junior event at Al Wathba, viewers on the live-stream were shocked to see grooms flood onto the field of play bully home five tired horses. The stables involved, including one of Sheikh Mohammed’s, were later fined a staggering $100,000 each by the EEF.

    The new deadline of 11 February to reach new agreement falls short of this weekend’s prestigious 160km Presidents Cup. The organisers, plus riders and officials travelling to the event have given every sign on social media that they expect it to go ahead.

    The FEI emphasised to H&H that the difficulty of finding an alternative world championship venue would not influence its handling of the crisis.

    Meanwhile, the Swiss Equestrian Federation and Australian Endurance Riders Association (AERA) has joined the American Endurance Ride Conference in calling for the championship ride to be moved to a new venue. AERA president Melanie Scott has also demanded the FEI supply national federations with “actual facts” about the measures being taken.

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