As usual, Welly World has hijacked my life, leaving me with little free time and a hoarse voice from all the social interacting that comes from cramming half the horse world into a few square miles. Since I am making so little headway on posting my 2016 predictions, and since just the first one is a lengthy blog on its own, I will be meting them out in little batches of one or two as time allows during my stint in Florida-land.
So here, it is, the prediction which I am most confident will come true in 2016:
The leopards will not change their spots – I’m talking about the federations, of course – the FEI and our own homegrown slice of disappointment, EC. In the category of ‘you couldn’t make this sh#*t up’ is last week’s FEI press release proudly announcing the honours bestowed upon a couple of past and present FEI honchos by – wait for it – Sheikh Mohammed of UAE endurance fame – nay, infamy – nay, notoriety. Yes, that’s right. Sheikh Mohammed annually hands out a set of distinctions, known as the Creative Sport Awards, in his own name. Because of course the Good Sheikh is the ultimate authority on all that is noble in sport. Extra especially equestrian sport and, very most especially of all, equestrian sport of the Endurance persuasion.
I find myself tempted to think of the Ruler of Dubai as a kind of Trump of the Middle East, minus the bad hair. Certainly the two men share more than a smidge of Ego (ie. megalomania) and perhaps a sprinkling of classic psychopathy. I should point out that Sheikh Mohammed’s net worth trumps Trump’s, at 14 billion to The Donald’s paltry 4 bill. And I suppose we have to give Trump the win when it comes to voicing his beliefs. Where we can only guess at what is truly going on in the tight-lipped Sheikh’s head, The Donald wears his brain on his sleeve, variously shocking and entertaining us (Dear Donald: we aren’t laughing with you).
But I digress. Back to the Sheikh’s ‘Creative’ Awards (quotation marks mine). The complete absence of a blush on Sheikh Mohammed’s face as he extends his Junior Wife the Local Sports Figure Award is truly stunning. And for what has HRH been honoured by her loving husband? Her efforts to bring the world’s most expensive sport not involving motorized vehicles to the world’s poorest regions. I’m not saying FEI Solidarity isn’t a worthy project for the sport’s international governing body, and I’m not saying HRH doesn’t deserve recognition for it. But an award from her own husband? Come ON.
The other award mentioned in the FEI press release, while not nepotistic (not even nationalistic as it happens), is nevertheless also an invitation to roll your eyes: For his role as FEI 2nd Vice President, member of the FEI Executive Board and President of FEI Regional Group VII, Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa (BRN), received the Arab Administrator Award. Gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘creative’, don’t you think? Was there also a Caucasian Administrator Award, I wonder?
You might be wondering what all this has to do with my prediction that the FEI is not about to suddenly become known for upholding its self-declared mission regarding horse welfare and fair play. The very fact that Sheikh Mohammed’s special awards get an FEI press release is, to me, plain-as-day evidence that Mission Control continues to follow the hypocritical path it’s been on for a very long time. Sheikh Mohammed has been, directly or indirectly, involved with more doping scandals in equestrian sport and British horse racing than anyone in history as far as I know, and by a sizable margin. And yet the FEI proudly sticks its name all over his ‘sports’ awards. Talk about not blushing.
My good friend Pippa Cuckson posted some astonishing and – possibly – hopeful news of coming change over on her Cuckson Report blog this week. Have a look at the post and then come back here to read what I take from this development….No one wants to see the atrocious cruelty of Middle Eastern endurance to end more than I, and I would like to be as hopeful as Pippa that a solution is finally about to be ushered in. But for anyone tempted to pat the FEI on the back at this juncture, allow me to point out that the initiative came from within the sport and within the region, and not from the FEI – despite, as Pippa points out, all the money and brain storming they’ve thrown at the problem. They’ve merely hitched their wagon to Sheikh Sultan Al Nahyan’s star; and that’s all they’ve done.
As for EC’s spots (more blemishes really), in contrast to all the FEI’s crowing, their unchangingness is made evident by the complete absence of communication. It would seem that the EC powers have taken a vow of silence as part of their 2016 New Year’s resolutions. In spite of my post of a couple of weeks ago that was about as subtle as a cattle prod, there has still been not so much as a peep about the sweeping governance changes that are taking place as I write this.
Here is something astounding that I’ve learned about the restructuring of the discipline committees: not only are the disciplines not undergoing the same processes, each is unaware that the others are doing anything differently to them. The DC Board is being reinvented from scratch, while JC is going ahead with business-as-usual with its existing Board. For anyone who remembers the bad old days of EC, it’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out. Wasted resources and wasted human spirit will be the inevitable result of all this history-repeating and duplication. ‘Same sh*#t, different day’, as the saying goes.
So while EC’s executives (this is a mantle shared by management and Board) persist in operating in secrecy, I beg to be pardoned for finding out what I can by other means and sharing it with readers – at the risk of possibly making a mistake. But you see, EC, that’s the inevitable pitfall that YOU introduce when you choose to keep your members locked out of the loop. Put us in a darkened room and the worst monsters we can imagine will appear before our blinded eyes.
I’ll try to come up with something a little less pessimistic in my next Predictions 2016 installment.