Concerns raised new endurance rules will backfire on welfare *H&H Plus*

  • Forty British riders, officials and trainers have written an open letter to the FEI to raise concerns about new rules that require riders to complete two additional CEI3* (160km) rides in order to qualify for next year’s championships. H&H finds out more...

    Concerns surrounding horse welfare in endurance and qualification for the World Championships have been raised as new rules come into play.

    On 23 June the FEI announced the 2020 endurance World Championships, due to be held in Pisa, Italy, in September, would be postponed until May 2021 owing to the pandemic. This meant two endurance championships would take place next year, with the Europeans in the Netherlands scheduled for September 2021. New rules came into force on 1 July, including amended qualifying criteria for both championships, requiring riders to complete two additional CEI3* (160km) rides.

    In an open letter on 6 July to the FEI, signed by 40 British riders, officials and trainers, it was said the new rules are “not conducive” to improving equine welfare, and will make it prohibitive for nations where endurance is not a professional sport to qualify a team for the championships.

    Rider Harry Ingram, who coordinated the letter, told H&H Covid-19 meant there had not been enough time to gain the necessary qualifications and said there is a question as to whether the new criteria is in the best interest of horses’ welfare.

    “A short-term solution would be for the FEI to reconsider the qualifying criteria for next year and base it on the previous rules; one 160km ride,” he said.

    “We support a lot of what the endurance temporary committee is doing but we don’t see the benefit of the new qualification criteria.”

    H&H endurance blogger Annie Joppe, who signed the letter, told H&H she believes the new rules are going to have the “opposite effect” on improving welfare, and make qualifying difficult.

    “If someone doesn’t listen it’s going to go so wrong,” she said. “Only the countries with lots of money will have enough horses to go to the World Championships. It won’t be a World Championships if only five countries attend.”

    Endurance GB (EGB) chairman Phil Nunnerley told H&H the signatory group had not requested support from EGB on the letter. He said EGB had held a consultation with its members on the new rules and the organisation was “broadly very supportive” of them. He added EGB is in talks with the FEI on hosting a qualifying ride this year.

    “We made it clear to the FEI that we hoped it would continue to recognise qualification for the World Championships would be difficult and that they might consider extending the qualifications to be based on the pre-1 July rules,” he said.

    An FEI spokesman told H&H the organisation had “taken note” of the concerns raised in the open letter. He added decisions relating to the new rules and qualification period were taken by the FEI board at its extraordinary meeting on 19 June, where it was agreed to prolong the qualification period.

    “There will be further discussions on the qualification criteria for the World Championships at the board meeting on 21 July and more information will be provided,” he said.

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