Four endurance rides in the UAE due to be staged in the next few days were announced as “postponed” on Tuesday (2 February), as worldwide outrage over the horse welfare crisis continues to escalate.
And in another surprise move, all remaining rides in Dubai for the rest of the season have disappeared from the calendar of the Dubai Equestrian Club.
The Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) emailed the postponements to its members overnight on Wednesday, without giving a reason.
However, earlier that day FEI endurance director Manuel Bandeira de Mello flew into Abu Dhabi for an emergency meeting. The week before, the EEF was summoned to FEI headquarters in Lausanne.
Mr Bandeira de Mello said: “Following meetings between the FEI and the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF), the EEF has postponed four endurance events so that agreement can be reached on proposed measures to urgently address a number of serious issues in endurance in the region.
“The CEI1* in Dubai on 8 February has been postponed, along with national events on 4, 5 and 6 February. The FEI has set a deadline of 11 February for the EEF to come back with an agreement on the proposed measures.”
The postponed rides comprise two CEIs and two CENS, of which three were due to be staged at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai International Endurance City (DIEC). The fifth is at Al Wathba in Abu Dhabi. The other Abu Dhabi venue, Bou Thib, where HH Sheikh Sultan Al Nahyan, has forced significant reform, is unaffected.
DIEC is still listed as host of the 2016 world endurance championships, in December, though the threat of withdrawal was one of the many conditions attached to the legal agreement between the FEI and EEF for lifting the UAE’s suspension last year, for its major horse welfare abuses.
This season, there has been little evidence of change, with record speeds recorded, 10 horses officially listed as catastrophically injured, of which seven are now confirmed as dead, one of them after being pursued by a TV car and running into a fence. Vehicles are still driving on the track and “hazing” horses, with a catalogue of other rule-breaches caught on the official livestream, YAS.
Last weekend, five riders – including the first three over the line – were disqualified from a junior/young riders 120km ride at Al Wathba for beating their exhausted horses. A video clip of the final stages of the race went viral, leading for many calls on social media for the UAE to be re-suspended immediately.
Footage later emerged of the eventual winner also beating his horse, though the FEI Legal department investigated and confirmed to H&H that there is no mechanism to disqualify in hindsight.