Lausanne, Apr 30, 2014: The FEI today announced bold steps that will ensure improved protection of the welfare of horses in Endurance events, proposing unprecedented athlete penalties for equine injuries, extended rest periods and increased accountability. The moves were fully supported by delegates attending today’s Endurance round table on the second day of the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne (SUI).
“The welfare of the horse is not just a veterinary issue, it’s an issue for all those who work in the sport,” FEI 1st Vice President John McEwen and chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee said.
Proposed rule changes relating to officials’ accountability and responsibility, increased protection of horses through athlete penalty points and extended rest periods, appointment of Independent Governance Advisors (IGA) and improved conflict of interest regulations received wide support from attendees.
There was also wide support for the new FEI Endurance Codex, which the Endurance Committee has produced to cover Endurance officials, and separately Endurance athletes and registered trainers. The Codex, which defines responsibility, accountability and sanctions for those in breach of the Codex, already exists for FEI Veterinarians.
The rules changes will be circulated to National Federations for final review prior to going before the FEI Bureau at its in-person meeting on 9-10 June for approval and immediate implementation.
During the debate session that followed, there was a call for information about injuries at national events to be included in the Global Endurance Injuries Study (GEIS), which was backed by Dr Tim Parkin of Glasgow University, who was commissioned by the FEI to set up the study.
“The FEI has done a great job of demonstrating what can be done with data that is currently available from FEI events and it is clearly going in the right direction,” he said. “Adding in data from national events is only going to improve that situation. The new regulations have an impact that is really beneficial to the welfare of the horse.”
Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, also voiced his support for the GEIS and improved monitoring. “The need to make evidence based decisions is so important for equine welfare and I fully support the FEI’s injury surveillance programme,” he said. “Notwithstanding the limitations on data from national competitions, I would urge National Federations to provide data to the GEIS and for the FEI to use all its influence to make that happen.”
Andrew Finding, chair of the Endurance Strategic Planning Group (ESPG) which was tasked with producing a long-term plan for the discipline, expressed his appreciation for the support of the Group’s recommendations. “I would like to express on behalf of myself and my colleagues on the ESPG our gratitude for the support and the determined effort made by the FEI to put in place our recommendations,” he said. “You should be applauded for that work, and we are grateful for the diligence you have applied.”
Brian Sheahan, chair of the Endurance Committee, voiced the opinions of everyone attending the session. “To protect the welfare of the horse, we need to know that we’re doing the right thing,” he said. “I would like to see increased completion rates, reduced injuries and illness in the horse, and better course design. To maintain the integrity of our sport, we need a reduction in doping, improved compliance by athletes and trainers and improved rule enforcement by officials. This sport should demonstrate the highest standards of sportsmanship in a fair and equal competition. And may the best combination of horse and athlete win.”
John McEwen complimented the Endurance Committee on its work. “The Endurance Committee has worked tirelessly to produce functional regulatory structure which will take the sport forward and I am pleased that the regulatory changes and the implementation of those changes is working towards achieving the targets set by the ESPG.
“The Task Force will be extremely useful in helping implement the work done by the Endurance Committee and the Department. The processes that we have put in place will create, and do create, an enormous workload upon the departments responsible, but in my opinion the work is absolutely essential and very worthwhile.”
Panellists for the Endurance round table were John McEwen, FEI 1st Vice President and Chair of the Endurance Committee; Brian Sheahan, Chair of the Endurance Committee; Committee members Dr Khalid Ahmed Hasan (BRN), Jaume Punti Dachs (ESP) and John Robertson (GBR); and Ian Williams, FEI Director Endurance.
An online discussion platform to continue the debate on all topics discussed at the FEI Sports Forum 2014 is available here: http://sportsforum.fei.org/ —- Photo © Germain Arias Schreiber/FEI