‘Shock and sadness’ after four horses sustain catastrophic injuries abroad

Calls have been made for the “fullest possible” investigation after four horses sustained “shocking” catastrophic injuries at endurance rides in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Three horses competing in the CEN 120km Gamilati Cup (28 December) — Orange Glove ridden by Saif Ahmed Mohammed Alli Almazrouei of the UAE, L P Malvina ridden by Bianca Schutz of the Netherlands, and Aloha Diamond Jubilee ridden by Nadia Solange Fernandez of Argentina — suffered catastrophic injuries, as did one competing in the CEN 120km Al Maktoum Cup (29 December), Rafaela Heb ridden by Mohammad Ussain Habib Khan of India.

Endurance GB (EGB) director of welfare Antonia Milner-Mathews said the board was “shocked and saddened” by the incidents.

“We understand that although this was classified as a national (CEN) ride, there were at least 20 nationalities represented. It is clear that running these events with a very international flavour as CENs is not within the spirit of Article 101 of the FEI’s general regulations and we have grave concerns that such rides do not carry the level of scrutiny, welfare safeguards or sanctions that are in place at FEI CEI international level competition. We are calling on the FEI to review this,” she said.

Article 101 states a national event is limited to national athletes who take part “according to the regulations” of their national federations.

“While EGB feels that many of the new FEI rule changes coming into effect in 2020 will help improve welfare at international rides, the FEI must have backing at every level from national federations and sports’ governing bodies to both enforce and continually review both rules and the sanctions it imposes for failure to comply,” said Ms Milner-Mathews.

“Cleaning up endurance internationally must be the global priority for our sport in 2020 whatever that takes. At home, EGB is doing everything in its power to try to ensure the welfare of horses competing at EGB rides and as a result is continually reviewing its own policies and procedures as there is always room for progress.”

A spokesman for EGB added that it had re-issued the procedure by which British riders must obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from EGB in order to compete at endurance rides abroad, including non-FEI competitions.

“Article 101 states individual foreign athletes, other than ‘athletes living outside their country of nationality’, may take part in national rides provided they have obtained written permission from their own national federation and from the national federation of the organising committee concerned,” he said.

“The purpose of these certificates is to allow the rider to evidence that they are qualified to ride at the required level under EGB domestic rules, and that there are no live or pending disciplinary issues which might preclude the individual from competing.”

EGB operations director and vice-chairman Esther Young said the body “strongly recommends” that riders do not compete in areas of the world where there are “serious and well-founded” concerns about welfare in endurance riding.

“The fact that EGB has issued a NOC is merely evidence that the rider is appropriately qualified and does not in any way condone their activities abroad. Riders make the decision to ride abroad at their own risk, and they must not bring the sport of endurance riding nor EGB into disrepute,” she said.

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“British riders riding overseas must remember that they remain subject to the EGB rules and recommendations, and that the EGB disciplinary policy applies to them wherever in the world they are riding. Our members are expected to uphold the highest standards of horse welfare and sportsmanship, and members who ride overseas can and do get referred to our disciplinary panel if they break our rules.”

Ms Young added FEI-registered riders should be aware that from 1 January they are expected under the new FEI rules to report any instances of horse abuse they witness to the FEI, whether or not it occurs at an FEI competition.

“EGB fully supports this requirement and will help and advise any rider wishing to report abuse,” she said.

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