Riders whose arrangements are now in chaos have blasted Euston Park Endurance for the short notice re-vamp of its H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum UK Endurance Festival next weekend (17-19 August).
On 7 August organisers announced that the major CEI3* 160km class had switched from Friday to Saturday, causing problems for those expecting to ride both days, while the CEI2* 120km class had been cancelled. Many are now trying to rearrange travel and accommodation for themselves and their crews, while others hoping to switch to another class are racing to obtain £200 FEI horses passports – a process which normally takes three weeks.
The festival offers the “richest incentives” in Europe. While this is half the sum promoted last year, the 1 million euros on offer includes £500 for every horse passing the initial vet check and starting.
A spokesman for event organisers Euston Park Endurance told H&H the change of date for the CEI3* was to ensure everyone taking part in the festival was able to attend a gala dinner on the Friday evening.
The spokesman said: “It became obvious that many competitors would be still taking part in the CEI3* 160km class if it was held on the Friday, so would be unable to attend. Similarly, all of their support crews, national officials, FEI officials and the many, many volunteers would still be working on the CEI3*. The decision was taken to postpone the CEI3* by 24 hours to allow everyone to attend this fantastic gala dinner, which proved to be one of the highlights of the entire weekend last year.”
Another cause for complaints was the change of the festival’s official status from a CEI to a CEIO, which means FEI passports are obligatory and the minimum horse age is eight, compared with seven at a normal CEI. Horses competing in a CEI* or CEI2* in their home country are not required to have FEI passports.
Euston says individuals can now enter the CEIO2* so “there is no need” for the CEI2*, and it was “never intended” to run both – even though entries were accepted.
The spokesman said: “We had always planned that the first ever UK endurance CEIO competition was to be the main focus of the August festival at Euston Park.
“According to the FEI regulations the CEIO competition includes both an individual competition and a team competition. However, it was only recently that we received final confirmation from the FEI that there was no need to show the individual competition separately to the CEIO team competition. The organising committee immediately wrote to all national federations to advise them of the position.
“Under the CEIO2* competition nations are able to enter all their athletes and horses into the one CEIO competition. Chefs d’equipe are required to name their team combinations only after the pre-ride vetting. All other combinations from each nation then continue to compete in the CEIO but as individuals.
“We have been working closely with national federations where their horses do not meet minimum FEI endurance CEIO qualifications and documentation. We are offering entry into alternative competitions that all carry similar levels of prize money together with the same financial support for travel, accommodation, free stabling, free entry etc.”
Abby Chisholm wrote on Euston’s public Facebook page: “This is ridiculous! That this has happened so close to the ride! A lot of people have been training for this specific competition and now cannot even do it because you decided not to run the class.”
Esther Groen wrote: “Ah FFS!!!! Now I have no accommodation options any more as all booked!! Who would do this last minute, loads of people have counted on these dates!”
Excitement is mounting ahead of the World Equestrian Games in the USA in September, as we bring you the latest
Horse & Hound explains all you need to know to follow the endurance competition at WEG
Zoe Lindop posted: “Many need to do the 120k to have their qualifications towards the Europeans. They will now have no time to get an FEI passport guaranteed returned, and why should they incur the expense when the ride they entered did not need one?”
There has been praise for Darren Butler, Endurance GB’s administrative officer, for his fast processing of passport applications. But Mel Bradley observed: “Maybe H Power [sic] should pay for the passports considering they have changed the classes without thinking of the consequences.”
The event’s spokesman assured H&H that it was working with anyone adversely affected by the changes and encouraged any others to “get in touch”.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.