A 120km “private” endurance ride with an “unprecedented” prize-pot of £175,000 being organised and run by Dubai Equestrian Club (DEC) is causing consternation among UK riders.
The 120km event, called Ride with the Stars, will be held at Euston Park, Norfolk, on Saturday (2 August). It was announced on 14 July and will not be run under International Equestrian Federation (FEI) or Endurance GB (EGB) rules.
The ride is expected to attract a large field because every completing combination will receive prize-money.
Discussion about the last-minute addition to the endurance calendar is rife on the EGB members’ forum.
One rider states: “Our ride organisers have put many hours of unpaid time into producing rides for this year and the future and, if we are not careful, they will not be there.”
Others are concerned over welfare of horses ridden by inexperienced competitors keen to complete and win money.
“I would urge anyone who does not have extensive experience of competing at this level to think long and hard before entering,” said another rider.
There have also been suggestions that the ride has been put on to allow Sheikh Mohammed to continue to compete. He is currently suspended from competition by the FEI while a doping enquiry is investigated (news, 16 April).
EGB chairman John Yeoman has warned members to remember the “very hard work” put in by ride organisers who are “understandably disappointed that this unscheduled ride is going to take place”.
He told H&H that about 10 or 12 rides may see a reduction in competitors as a result of Ride with the Stars, but added: “It won’t be so dramatic that we will be cancelling rides”.
Ridgeway Barbury Castle Ride, which has a 100km one-day class and a 116km two-day class over 8-9 August, has not been adversely affected, according to joint-organiser Jill Kent.
“I know of one rider who has changed plans to enter Ride with the Stars, but we haven’t had any withdrawals,” said Ms Kent, who admitted she has entered Euston Park herself.
Organiser of the Pheonix ride on 2-3 August, John Hudson, also said he has not noticed any adverse effect on entries.
Mr Yeoman added that the prize-fund is “unprecedented in Europe, let alone the UK” and would attract a large field, adding: “My wife and brother will both be competing, it will be a terrific event.”
FEI head of endurance Ian Williams told H&H that Dubai Equestrian Club enquired “some months ago” about the legalities of running a private ride.
“As a one-off, it’s like unaffiliated show jumping. It’s a private get-together and there’s nothing in our statutes to prevent that,” he said.
While he added that the FEI had little information about the event, he believed organisers were using experienced endurance vets and running the ride “virtually like an international endurance competition”.
He added that a prize-fund of £175,000 would be “fairly standard” in the UAE.
H&H contacted the organisers, but they did not return our calls.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (30 July, ’09)