Clean Endurance witnesses continued disrespect for FEI Endurance Rules
Clean Endurance is disappointed and extremely concerned that despite the new 2020 FEI Endurance rules, the al Ula CEI 2* 120 KM ‘The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup’ in Saudi Arabia on February 1st showed no improvement in terms of rule abidance, horse welfare or horsemanship.
This event with record prize money of 3,6 million Euros is a high-risk competition attracting inexperienced and unskilled riders, thus subjecting horses and other riders to the risk of injury. This competition clearly requires highly diligent, competent and conflict-of-interest-free Officials, stringent rule application and FEI oversight of the highest level. The first edition in 2019 saw a record number of 7 doping positives, at least 1 dead horse hidden in the results, and speeds of over 30 kmph.
This year, the panel of Officials was largely unchanged from 2019: 16 out of 21 Officials were awarded (key) roles again. Clean Endurance regrets that the FEI did not send an evidently much needed independent observer (IGA) to monitor the event and report on rule breaches, horse welfare issues and the performance of the Officials. The increased involvement of Europeans such as the organiser of the upcoming European and Junior/Young Rider World Championship in the organization of the Al Ula competition visibly failed to improve matters, nor did the presence of FEI Endurance Temporary Committee member Tarek Taher (KSA) who had a horse in this competition.
The provisional results show 2 Serious Injuries, 2 Minor Injuries, 7 Disqualifications for not presenting at the Vet Gate and 85 finishers out of 189 starters.
Perhaps the most concerning issue of all was the appalling amount of dust (mainly generated by cars driving along the track) in which horses were ridden hard: at an average speed of over 25 kmph for over 120 kms, with final loop speeds of close to 32 kmph for the first 9 combinations. Riders protected themselves by wearing dust masks and clearly had no concern for the discomfort and potential long-term damage to the eyes and lungs of their horses. The Officials at this competition had the duty and the authority to remedy this on the day, but they visibly failed to even attempt to do so.