Published 17 February 2015

Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) wishes to express its deep sadness at the appalling events surrounding the horse Splitters Creek Bundy which was competing in the Al Reef Cup in the UAE recently.  

Naturally this has caused extreme concern amongst equestrians right across the globe and everyone acknowledges that this situation cannot be allowed to continue in the sport of endurance. While accepting that this was deemed a national event over which the FEI has very limited control, the FEI has advised national federations that it is investigating the horse welfare incidents at the Al Reef endurance event. ESNZ fully supports the FEI’s attention to this matter.

The death of any horse in our sports is completely unacceptable but if it does occur, steps must be taken immediately to learn from the tragedy and make changes to ensure the risk of a recurrence is eliminated wherever possible.

Endurance is an extreme sport and protecting our horses has to be the highest priority, always over and above the importance of the competition. While we do not know all the facts in this case, ESNZ continues to emphasise that horse welfare is always our foremost concern, and we will take a strong stance against any individual or organisation who does not equally endorse that.

ESNZ has supported recent rule changes, which were instituted in August 2014 by the FEI to protect horses and support fair play, even though these rule changes have created challenges for the sport within New Zealand. The measurable effects of these changes are not yet clear.

The ESNZ Endurance Board will work with other like-minded National Federations to influence positive change within Group VII countries. While many competitors in these countries are equally appalled by the tragedy in the Al Reef Cup, changes to the rules, the culture and behaviour will all be needed to ensure a fair and harmonious sport.