The Emirates Equestrian Federation revised a number of historic endurance ride results on its website over the weekend, amid revelations that numerous fatal injuries on the field of play had to date been ‘airbrushed’ out of official ride results. In response, the FEI has announced a new procedure for its veterinary department to follow-up “unreported” endurance horse deaths.
The CI (Catastrophic Injury) results code was introduced in 2014 to improve transparency over the incidence of ride fatalities. But since then at least 26 horses who died during or hours after a ride have not been declared CI, according to volunteer researchers from the Clean Endurance community.
Clean Endurance compared dates of death later logged with the FEI registrations database with the date of the horses’ last CEI or CEN start. All were the exact same day. Yet on ride results sheets the 26 horses are noted either FTC (Failed to Complete) or eliminated without giving a reason. Between 2009 and 2013, over 50 further “hidden” deaths have been identified so far.
A Clean Endurance spokesman told Horse-Canada.com: “We think many more deaths are yet to be discovered. We have not made a clean-sweep of the whole FEI database. So far we have followed up FTCs that looked suspicious, or checked what happened to horses whose condition worried us when we saw them on the livestream.”
There has also been a social media storm this weekend over distressing video of 11-year-old Syferpan Usain at the 110km Commemoration Day ride in Dubai on November 29th. The South African-bred Syferpan Usain died on the third loop and was one of three to perish on that day. Azzam Al Khamis, a 17-year-old, and US-bred Patrolons Moonstruck, aged 12, did not even complete loop one. All three deaths continued to be omitted from the results supplied by Dubai’s exclusive timings provider Tawqeet, even after the horses’ dates of death on November 29th were separately advised to the FEI.
Clean Endurance captured some video as he left the vet gate, and again when he finally ground to a halt, barely unable to support his own weight before the camera cut away.
Last month the FEI extended its Global Endurance Injuries Study (GEIS) for a further two years, in conjunction with which all date-of-death notifications will now trigger an immediate alert.
“The purpose of the new system is to ensure that all horse deaths, whether in competition, post-competition or unrelated to competition, are looked into,” said a FEI spokesman.
“Unreported fatalities are always investigated and, depending on the findings, could result in a warning letter or a suspension.”
The death rate in the FEI group 7 countries has always been rumoured to exceed the official statistic and concerns were expressed at the FEI Endurance Forum in February 2014. One delegate suggested introducing an award for any horse still alive five years after it has retired from competition. This astonishing suggestion was included in the documentation and recommendations of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group.