Today was the opportunity for representatives from a number of National Federations to speak to the Temporary Endurance Committee and to provide feedback about what in the current rules is and isn’t working in endurance and what we see as a way forward to improve the horse welfare outcomes and therefore the image of the sport. It is a difficult task as the same rules really have to be applied in all areas and what may work in one country may be impossible to implement in others.
The Temporary Endurance Committee (TEC) was set up in October 2018 following the resignation of the Chair of the Endurance Committee and with legal proceedings against the Deputy Chair pending. The remit of the TEC was to urgently assess the issues currently affecting the sport of Endurance and carry out an in-depth review of the rules in order to identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its original roots of Endurance riding as opposed to Endurance racing, with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core, while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the sport.
The members of the TEC are:
- Sarah Coombs (Chair) a very experienced Endurance vet from Great Britain. Sarah actually told me last night that her first endurance vetting ever was in Morrinsville and she spent some years working in the Waikato.
- Tarek Taher from Saudi Arabia, an international Endurance athlete and recently-elected by his peers as a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee. He’s been very active on facebook and many of you will be following him.
- Pieter Wiersinga, chef d’équipe of the Dutch Endurance team, a Police Commissioner and former Head of the Mounted Police in the Netherlands
- Valerie Kanavy (USA) who twice won individual gold at WEG in 1994 and 1998; she was a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee and the Athletes’ Representative on the Endurance Committee for the four-year term 2014-2018
- Dr Tim Parkin (GBR), who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s Global Endurance injuries Study (GEIS).
- Rocio Echeverri from Costa Rica was on the previous Endurance Committee and remains as part of the TEC. She was Foreign Judge at our recent North Island Champs and was unable to attend this meeting in Lausanne as she has surgery scheduled to repair her broken ankle (which she was recovering from when she visited us).
FEI’s 2nd Vice President Mark Samuel (CAN) is the FEI Board Liaison to the TEC and has also been attending all their meetings will also be involved in the work of the Temporary Committee.
Meeting with Stakeholders
The remit for today’s meeting was that the TEC would listen to the views of representatives from the NFs and in particular they wanted feedback about some possible areas for change:
- Qualification system for next level
- Qualification for FEI championship events
- Mandatory Rest Periods
- Track design – natural features, number of loops, access to water, proximity of cars
- Elimination codes
- Heart rate and presentation times
- Rider weight
- Increased sanctions for positive drug tests
- Set limit on number of competitors per class
- Continuous crewing
- Any other topic which the delegates believe is important
The survey that the Board distributed to ESNZ Endurance club members was aimed at seeking your views on these points so that they could be brought to this meeting. The anonymised results from the survey (from ESNZ members) are attached along with the comments people provided so that you can see what everyone else thought. Most people had a strong preference for no change in most of the areas and changes about rider weight were the most divided with the majority being in favour of no change.
Equestrian Australia were not able to send anyone to the meeting and so I was in contact with Anne Barnes in the lead up to this meeting to be able to also represent their views (which were very much in line with our own).
All attendees were invited to join the TEC and senior staff from FEI Lausanne for dinner on the Wednesday night and then today (21st February) was set aside for the TEC to meet with small groups of people from the different regions for approximately 2 hours each group. I also took the opportunity to meet with delegates from other NFs to exchange views and the majority of representatives were in agreement on most areas and particularly that there are two very different sports developing endurance riding and endurance racing.
I was one of four representatives from Group VIII, along with representatives from Malaysia, India and Thailand. We were mostly in agreement on the issues. One problem for Thailand and Malaysia is that their humidity and the fact that they mostly use local horses for competition (not Arabs) makes it difficult for them to meet HR criteria and any reduction in HR or presentation time would mean that most would not qualify. I gather that most of the other Group representatives were saying much the same ‘”enforce the current rules”. There were 6 representatives from Europe, 3 from North America, 3 from South America, five from Group VII and one from Namibia. There was also another small group of stakeholders including the International Association of Endurance Event Organizers and World Horse Welfare.
Specific points I made on behalf of ESNZ included:
- Enforce the current rules and in particular, reference to the Code of Conduct for Horse Welfare should be used rather than trying to create new rules to cover every eventuality
- Riders and all involved in the sport need to take personal responsibility for what is happening in the sport; can we better recognise and celebrate achievements such as multiple years in competition, best conditioned, partnerships etc?
- The problems with requiring Mandatory Rest Periods on the shorter distance CEN events (just for distance completed, agreed that MRP should be put in place for horses that fail to qualify)
- Additional MRP for horses eliminated for metabolic reasons
- The unintended consequences of some of the rules in countries like New Zealand e.g. the proposed changes to the stabling and yarding rules (in the Veterinary Regulations)
- Ensure that officials are enabled to do their job correctly and be able to report officials who don’t enforce the rules
- More targeted drug testing and higher penalties for those involved
- Re-introduce the proposed “speeding fine” of +7 days MRP for speeds ≥ 20 km/hr
- I was also able to provide data about the average and winning speeds for our competitions and the completion rates to illustrate why we don’t really have any problems that need controlling
Although there wasn’t unanimous agreement in the survey on all of these points, I had to represent the majority view. Whether or not any of these suggestions will make it through to the rules is another thing. It was also agreed that adding in new rules every season also wasn’t helping our sport!
The prevalent opinion was that there was very little need for further changes to the rules and that mostly the rules we have are sufficient but they just need to be enforced. More rules would likely make the sport not viable in some parts of the world and particularly in the smaller countries. It was recognised that some of the newly introduced rules have not had the desired effect in improving horse welfare and that they have damaged the sport in some countries due to the cost of compliance.
One person’s comment in our survey pretty much summed it up “Simplify the rules and enforce them. Read the definition of endurance and the Code of Conduct for the welfare of the horse – this defines our sport”. Well done whoever that was.
Both Tarek Taher and Sarah Coombs would love to come and visit NZ – one to ride and another to vet at one of our events. Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey and thank you to ESNZ and the Endurance Board for supporting me to represent us at this meeting. It was fortunate that I was able to change some flights that were already booked and paid for which kept the cost of attending down. The TEC are having their monthly meeting the following day (22nd February) and will be taking all of the feedback on board as they move forward with re-defining our sport. The TEC will have another meeting in March and then there will be the Sports Forum in April which will include a whole day dedicated to endurance.
Prior to the Lausanne meeting a survey was held to ensure the views ESNZ Endurance members would be represented. Results of the survey can be viewed here