Four horse fatalities in three rides have put endurance organisers in Dubai under threat of further disaffiliation from FEI competition.
Urgent meetings will take place in Dubai next week, where the FEI is expected to insist on tougher measures to reduce high speeds. Two of the four horses died in a single ladies’ ride on January 4th, both from the same barn. The FEI has also taken the unprecedented step of suggesting the fatalities could result from pre-existing fractures due to training techniques.
All four catastrophic injuries occurred at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai International Endurance City on December 12th, January 4th and January 7th. DIEC had only started staging FEI rides again in December, after the FEI imposed a seven-month moratorium on considering schedules for any type of event from DIEC. Last April, the FEI also removed the 2016 world championship event from DIEC, on the grounds that “horse welfare could not be guaranteed.”
A FEI spokesman said: “The FEI is extremely concerned that there have been a number of in-competition endurance fatalities in the UAE this season and has put in place a series of urgent high level meetings in Dubai next week to discuss the current issues.
“We have already implemented staggered starts at Dubai where the number of competing horses is higher. Additionally, four days of educational seminars and workshops were held in Abu Dhabi and Dubai at the beginning of December, with separate seminars for athletes and trainers, stewards, veterinarians, judges and technical delegates. The seminars included a presentation on the prevention of bone injuries, with an emphasis on the importance of enforced rest periods, including a break in training.
“The catastrophic injuries that have occurred this season have all been in the first loop, so it suggests that these are pre-existing fractures and that there is a serious issue with training techniques. Data from all events, including national fixtures, is being fed into the Global Endurance Injuries Study (GEIS) and Equiratings is also providing the FEI with statistics for surveillance and monitoring.
“The FEI will continue to work closely with the new management at the Emirates Equestrian Federation and a strong course of action will be agreed upon depending on the outcome of these meetings, including a requirement for reduced speeds and heart rates, shorter presentation times to enforce slower speeds and/or potential suspension of CEIs in the calendar.”
A report on recent DIEC rides by the Emirates news agency WAM made no reference to the fatalities and stated that Sheikh Mohammed praised the organisers for producing an event that fits the stature of the UAE and “Emirati champions.” WAM also quoted the Sheikh as saying: “The UAE has become a hub for equestrian endurance sports, and a factory producing champions who display the high stature of the UAE at global competitions.”