FEI Addressing Endurance Horse Welfare Issues

FEI Addressing Endurance Horse Welfare Issues

Photo: Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Secretary General has provided an overview of a series of measures to be implemented by both the FEI and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Equestrian Federation to address serious horse welfare issues in UAE Endurance.

In view of the deaths of seven horses in the UAE in the last four weeks, six at national endurance competitions and one at a FEI event, as well as seven recent adverse findings in drug tests from UAE endurance horses, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez requested immediate action from the UAE national federation (NF).

“I asked the UAE National Federation to urgently put in place measures that would specifically address the situation in the UAE and we welcome the speed with which they have responded to these very serious issues,” Ibáñez said. “We have already expressed our concerns that the fatal bone fractures we are seeing in the UAE are possibly the result of over-training and are likely to be pre-existing injuries that haven’t been given sufficient time to heal.

“The studies that the FEI is undertaking and which will be first presented to the Sports Forum and then in more depth during the Endurance forum in Barcelona (Spain) on May 23 and 24 will help determine the causes so that actions can be taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

A session dedicated to risk factors and bone injuries in endurance will be held during the FEI Sports Forum, taking place in April in Lausanne, Switzerland. Initial findings of the Global Injuries Endurance Study, conducted by Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DECVPH, MRCVS, and Euan Bennet, MSci, PhD, of Glasgow University, in Scotland, will be presented, and Chris Whitton, BVSc, PhD, FACVSc, from the University of Melbourne, in Australia, will present on bone fatigue.

“If, following presentation of the scientific data, there is a clear consensus on immediate actions to be taken, I will propose the use of emergency procedures to speed up the implementation of new rules, as we have done previously when faced with similar issues,” Ibáñez said.

In addition, the FEI will host a series of meetings with trainers and team veterinarians in the UAE specifically to address the high level of catastrophic injuries in the region.

In response to the demand for action from the FEI, the UAE NF has outlined measures that have now been put in place to reduce equine fatalities, including:

  • Requiring stables involved in equine fatalities to provide full medical history for each horse and any medication administered. Details of the horses’ nutritional programs and training schedules, including the methods used; the hours of training; and distances covered, the timing; and venue conditions will also be collected;
  • Studying each endurance course in the region, including a detailed assessment of track conditions;
  • Inspecting all remaining endurance events in the 2017 UAE season. This will be carried out by an expert panel of endurance course specialists and experienced veterinarians, including the FEI Veterinary Director;
  • Working directly with local organizing committees to investigate equine injuries at their venue;
  • Increasing sanctions for those responsible for injury to horses, including imposing maximum permissible fines (€15,000 per offence) and penalty points; and
  • Expanding the scope of individuals that can be held accountable, in addition to trainers and veterinarians.

“The new senior management at the UAE National Federation, who met with the FEI President last month, is far more engaged and transparent than the previous administration,” Ibáñez said. “We are hopeful that, through their continuing cooperation with the FEI, together we will make dramatic improvements in addressing the causes of these injuries and the high levels of positives. This is something that needs to be done from the inside out and, while we can and will help from an educational perspective, there needs to be a willingness to improve from within and that now seems to be the case.”

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