They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s just as well, because the greater the scandal, the briefer the utterance we get out of the FEI.
I refer of course, to the hideous image of Splitters Creek Bundy perched on his shattered forelegs at the CEN in Abu Dhabi on January 31st, which the FEI said it could do nothing about because the Al Reef Cup was a national event.
Disgust on social media at the FEI’s inertia is still running a close second to the outcry at the grotesque fate of Bundy as the battalion of following vehicles ploughed on regardless, no doubt horns blaring and with one eye on the speedometer to see just how fast the remaining cannon-fodder could be hazed into running. No one has denied reports that it took a veterinarian 20 minutes to arrive.
TWO broken legs. We all know fractures can happen in any horse sport, but for both forelegs to explode simultaneously on the flat, something has to have been very, very seriously wrong with this horse’s preparation and supervision. He was vetted out lame in his previous three FEI starts. In his native Australia, before he had the gross misfortune to be sold to the UAE, he was as sound as a pound.
I am told that, TEN days after the event, the FEI is privately telling some of the people who have bombarded them with complaints that they are asking the UAE for a full report, and that the FEI condemns cruelty. Well, that’s good to know, when so many of us were thinking the FEI meant “condones,” not condemns.
But once again, the FEI is not leading but “reluctantly following,” to quote Roly Owers in his forthright speech to the FEI general assembly just two months ago. The FEI forever behaves like a lamb when it should be a lion.
Believe me, a week ago I tried to get the FEI to express, on the record, even a droplet of dismay about the failure, thus far, of FEI Group 7 to enter into the spirit of reform. The Daily Telegraph even “sat” on our story overnight to give the FEI chance to reconsider that they only wanted to say “It’s not in our jurisdiction,” because it would paint the FEI in such a bad light. But to no avail.
My Kiwi colleague, Neil Clarkson, pithily described the FEI as playing its “get out of jail free card.” The FEI does that rather a lot, as you will know if you have been following my scribblings for the past couple of years.
Last month, I wrote about yet another endurance horse-swap scandal. This was a mid-ride swap, unlike the Marmoog fiasco, but again allegedly involved a member of Maktoum family and, as with Marmoog, pictures of the alleged incident put the sport’s principal players and sponsors (plus their nursemaid, Jaume Punti Dachs, vice-chairman of the FEI endurance committee at the time) on the spot as the alleged offence was taking place.
But because the FEI was let off the hook about having to do anything about Marmoog, because the offence had not been officially reported within the ludicrous 30-minute post-results deadline, the same was always going to apply in this newly emerged case of Pang. And, thus, also when I resignedly put it to FEI that, at the same ride (Numana 2012), there was an illegal rider swap too.
They replied that a number of “issues” at Numana were investigated at the time, but the FEI were not in a position to “prosecute,” yadda yadda yadda. And that was it. No attempt to deny that these shocking rule violations occurred at all, never mind at a world championship qualifying CEI.
The 30-minute reporting deadline is now being “reviewed,” but until a more realistic timeframe for reporting suspected rule violations is introduced, the chances are zero of anyone being punished in the foreseeable future for anything apart from a doping offence. The new complaints procedures would have to be agreed by FEI member federations, who don’t meet again till the 2015 General Assembly at the end of the year.
But hang on, isn’t there an Extraordinary GA in April for the wholly self-serving reason of deciding if the new FEI president can receive a salary? Why not vote at the EGA on interim measures to enable the more efficacious reporting of rule-breaches? Again I put this to the FEI, but of course there was some reason – I can’t remember what now – why this couldn’t be done.
Process should not have to be slavishly adhered to when there is a Crisis. Endurance is in a crisis. Crisis is the word used, not just by muck-raking journalists, but by the chairman of the FEI’s own Endurance Strategic Planning Group in his closing presentation to the FEI Forum last April. And as Julie Taylor put it in her blog, which has also gone viral, if the FEI can’t do something about an outrageous situation, they should fix things so that they can.
The FEI must be the laughing stock of all other global sports bodies for meekly saying it cannot influence what its member federations do. One of the major planks of the ESPG’s work was effecting change through education. If education is not going to happen at national rides in the desert, then at what stage is it meant to kick in? At a 160km CEI, perhaps, by which stage certain participants will have written-off goodness knows how many hapless and helpless imports?
Horse abuse happens all around us, of course. This past week I have also been haunted by this story. This was a cowardly act too, though maybe the perpetrator had no money and things just ran out of control.
But if I had to come back in another life as a horse, I would rather be the black mare than a Bundy. They have both suffered horribly, but at least at the very end, the black mare was being cared for by human beings who actually gave a stuff.