Outcry after horse breaks leg in ride caught on video

Distressing footage of an endurance horse sustaining a fracture is included in a video sent to the FEI and posted on You Tube by campaigning group Clean Endurance

The video shows incidents of alleged cheating and abuse captured from the livestream of the December 8 100 CEI ride at Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi. There is no record of any sanctions being applied, says a Clean Endurance spokesman.

In another development, the German federation today barred German riders from competing in the Emirates till at least the end of 2019. Federation president Dr Dennis Peiler said it is clear “measures are still not in place to protect the horses”.

On the video number 89, Castlebar Nato is struck with the reins repeatedly (at two minutes). It is against FEI endurance rules to hit a horse with anything, and whips are expressly disallowed in endurance. Then Nato pitches forward (three minutes) and his rider falls off. When Nato tries to get up his foreleg cannot support him.

Minimum weights have to be carried in FEI endurance. A rider who has just dismounted at the finish can be seen taking a belt or similar from a groom, out of a bucket (9 minutes, 22 seconds). The groom then appears to try to conceal the rider while she appears to fasten a belt under her number bib.

The last few minutes also show people running forward to hit and chase seven tiring horses approaching the finish line. In 2016, similar scenes at Al Wathba led to five trainers being fined by the Emirates Equestrian Federation, which then “suspended itself” for a week.

Other alleged rule breaches also include a horse having its tail and ear twisted (a common ploy to lower heart rate) while the vet is examining it; a horse being “hazed” by grooms as it sets off on the next loop; and rough handling of horse 75, the eventual winner, at two different trot-ups.

The issue of Nato is of additional concern for he was not euthanised on site. A previous study by Clean Endurance identified many injured horses that were euthanised only after they got home, thus avoiding the Catastrophic Injury code (CI) on a rider’s record. Riding two fatally injured horses in 12 months leads to suspension.

The Clean Endurance spokesman said: “We are disappointed to have witnessed yet again such blatant abuse and cheating. Officials were not in control and did not intervene to apply the appropriate sanctions.

“The footage of Nato also shows how the FEI’s results are not accurate. It is clear he sustained a very serious injury, but he is recorded as ‘failed to qualify’ for GA (irregular gait,) the same elimination code you would allocate to a horse vetted out with a bruised sole.”

H&H has asked the FEI for comment.


Do you have a topic you’d like to share with H&H readers? Then write to hhletters@ti-media.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and address; letters may be edited). 

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

All Horses for Sale