Outcry over death of horse at British endurance ride

Social media has erupted once more over the death of a horse at a endurance ride.

The UAE’s Ulla de Luc collapsed after a racing finish in the 120km** during the HH Sheikh Mohammed Festival at Euston Park in Suffolk yesterday afternoon (Sunday 18 August).

She was pronounced dead on the finish line minutes later. A video of the stricken 11-year-old being attended was viewed 50,000 times within 24 hours on the “Clean Endurance” Facebook page alone.

Debate became so heated on Endurance GB’s Facebook page that on Monday afternoon EGB removed an official announcement about the fatality. EGB said that while it understood “emotions are running high”, its social media policy had been breached by commenters “several” times.

In a statement, the Euston organising committee said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Ulla De Luc, ridden by Ghanim Said Salim Al Owaisi (UAE) and owned by F3 Stables died while competing at Euston Park at 13.50pm on 18 August. A post-mortem will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death. At every FEI event, the maximum consideration is given to the safety and welfare of horses and competitors.”

Ulla was travelling at an average last loop speed of 28 kph – which is very fast for a British ride. The mare’s FEI record shows she had never been ridden in competition before by Al Owaisi, and had not completed a FEI ride since July 2018.

The mare is owned by the UAE’s premier F3 stables and was recently re-registered as trained by Ali Ghanim al Marri. Her previous trainer at the same stables, Khalifa Ghanim al Marri, has been provisionally suspended since February in connection with multiple prohibited substance positives returned by other horses in his care.

Ulla will be dope-tested as part of the compulsory post mortem. The official FEI vet did not attend the Sunday rides, but a FEI spokesman told H&H that sampling of other horses was undertaken by the veterinary commission.

The fatality has overshadowed the successful running at the same venue of the European endurance championships the previous day, in which Britain finished fifth of 11 teams. Spain took gold, France silver and Germany bronze. Rachael Atkinson (23rd; Tannasg Psyches Realm) and Annette Masterson (24th; Shoshana) were the first British riders home. Rachael’s daughter Kate (DNS Ronaldo) was 26th, while Sarah Rogerson (Warrens Hill Rubyn) also completed the 160km distance. Nicola Thorne (LM Bolena) was eliminated at vet gate three.

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The revised focus on high speeds by first time horse-rider combinations comes at the time the UAE federation is lobbying hard against FEI proposals to combat this practice and many welfare concerns.

A letter from the Emirates Equestrian Federation to all of the FEI’s 130 member countries urges them to support the UAE’s preferred style of racing-endurance when the FEI rules consultation concludes in 10 days’ time.

Last autumn the FEI created an “emergency” temporary committee chaired by Britain’s Dr Sarah Coombs, tasked with reforming the sport. In response, the UAE – suspended by the FEI in 2015 for multiple rule breaches and stripped of hosting the 2016 world championship “because horse welfare could not be guaranteed” – uses the letter to accuse the FEI of “hindering the growth of the sport.”

Full Endurance European Championship report in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 29 August.