New endurance proposals reveal wide concern for horse welfare [H&H VIP]

  • An award for horses whose careers last just 3 years has been added to proposals of the FEI’s endurance crisis task force.

    This comes after the recent endurance conference in Lausanne floated further astonishing measures to promote respect for horses and FEI rules.

    German judge Juliette Mallison, who proposed the award, said horses in “some parts of the world” had careers lasting just 12-24 months.

    “This is unacceptable. You want it to last for 6, 8, 10 seasons,” she said.

    The Indian Federation even proposed a new award for horses still alive 5 years after retiring.

    Several additions were made in Lausanne to the Endurance Strategic Planning Group’s (ESPG) original 37 recommendations.

    Other unprecedented suggestions included keeping all horses on site the night after a CEI (international endurance ride) of over 120km, under veterinary supervision.

    “A horse going home and dying is as bad as horse dying at an event,” said ESPG member Brian Sheahan.

    This led to discussion about the current omission of accident data from CEN (national) rides, a greater proportion of which are now staged in the Middle East. FEI vice-president John McEwen said CENs were not FEI controlled — to retorts that eventing manages to gather data from national events.

    Other proposals to stop cheating included more use of microchip testing — to deter horse swapping — and GPS, to deter “errors of course”.

    However, Emmett Ross, US team chef d’equipe, was pessimistic about ESPG proposals to impose a basic competence standard.

    “Who will judge all these people, and how do we arbitrate who is a good rider and who isn’t?” he asked.

    The FEI was urged to step up moral support for officials. It was suggested the FEI itself should appoint and pay for all CEI international/FEI event officials so they would no longer fear not being invited back for eliminating a top rider.

    But FEI secretary-general Ingmar de Vos warned of costs.

    “We have other disciplines who will say, do this for us too,” he said. “We have to be very careful within the whole FEI. Some will feel endurance is not our first priority when we are fighting to keep in the Olympic sports.”

    However, Maarten van der Heijden of the Dutch federation — which is losing a major sponsor because of negative perceptions of endurance — said: “When one discipline is affecting all the others, it has to be priority number one.”

    Final ESPG proposals will be presented to the FEI open forum on 28-29 April. Any new rules must be approved by the FEI General Assembly in December.

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (20 February, 2014 edition)