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    [RC] IntNewsGroup: Jerez WEG Endurance Postride Report - Lori & Rick Stewart

    Jerez WEG Endurance Postride Report

    Dane Frazier DVM


    Good Evening Everyone

    As promised, I am reporting on the endurance competition at the WEG in Jerez of Monday last, September 16 - a day that will be long discussed. I have purposely waited a few days to write to allow time to give me a better perspective.

    As all of you are probably aware, two horses died as a result of metabolic failure (exhausted horse syndrome). One was a Spanish horse and the other was a French horse leased to a rider from Malaysia. It is not my purpose to find blame – there is enough of that to go around for everyone involved in the conduct of this ride – but to find a solution to problems.

    It is true that the riders rode their horses into a state of collapse and the rider is ultimately responsible for their horse. However, the rider is not totally responsible. The organizing committee, the FEI, the ride officials, and the veterinary commission all have responsibilities that impact the safety and welfare of the horse.

    I have never been an official at any endurance ride (I served as the Foreign Veterinary Delegate for the WEG) in which there was so much conflict and disagreement between the organizing committee and the FEI officials appointed for the event. For one example among many, the organizing committee and the Toulouse Group placed pressure on the Technical Delegate (Dr. Hallvard Sommerseth) through senior FEI officials to accept 4 vetgates with a trot-by (within the FEI rules) instead of the 5 vetgates that was preferred. (Not a single member of the veterinary commission was in favor of 4 vetgates and all felt that the trot by examination was next to worthless for metabolic assessment). It was the members of the Toulouse Group that pressured the imposition of this control without input from the rest of the world out side of Europe. The USA, the Australians, the Malaysians, etc. were not asked their opinion. We should strenuously object to these kinds of decisions, which affect the sport being made for us all, when "us " are not even aware that the topic is under deliberation.

    The 4th phase was particularly difficult. It was 39 km long (24.3 miles) late in the ride (beginning at 63 miles), in the mud. This is where the trot by was held (18.5 miles into the phase). It needed to be a full vetgate. This was to have disastrous consequences for the horses. The 3rd and 4th phases were the undoing of the horses that died in this ride.

    The original speed was set at 13 kph (12.5 hours-maximum ride time) with 140 minutes of total hold time in the 4 vetgates. The horses would cover 49 miles with only 40 minutes of rest. At the insistence of Carol Bunting, the President of the Ground Jury, another 20 minutes was finally allowed over the objection of the OC. The total rest time was 160 minutes (two hours and 40 minutes). For reference purposes, most 160-km rides in the USA have between 3 and 4 hours of hold time. I have not officiated at an USA 160-km ride with only 4 vetgates since 1980. Most of our 160-km rides have 5 to 6 vetgates.

    The speed was high and the holds were not under conditions expected to be hot, humid with hard footing. AND THEN CAME THE RAIN. This changed everything. The day was cool, but the footing was a quagmire. The Ground Jury reduced the minimum speed early on to 10 km/h (6.25mph), but the hold times remained the same- 40 minutes each. It would have been easier on horses with the expected conditions at 13 km/h than it was at the lesser speed in the mud.

    There are many more examples than there is time to relate them. Suffice it to say, requirements were imposed on the ride that were not supported by any of the officials responsible for the well being of the horses that competed. We had the responsibility to look out for the horses, but we did not have the authority to set the standards that made this possible. Certainly we shared the same bed, but we did not share the same dreams.

    It is perhaps a biased view for me to evaluate the performance of the Veterinary Commission of which I was a member. However that may be, I was impressed by the care and concern every veterinarian on the commission (14 all told from 9 countries) expressed for the safety of the horses. All horses were evaluated by the FEI rules in a uniform manner. I felt that everyone went the extra mile to not only be impartial, but to leave no impression of partiality in the assessment of the horses. The Veterinary Commission took a lot of criticism from Chef dEquipes and team veterinarians for its decision to eliminate high profile riders on marginal horses. I will not elaborate further on this matter.

    One of the competitors summed it all up for the dead horses by saying, "We rode them too hard on too difficult a terrain with too little rest. We found them too sick too late and had too little to offer to keep them alive."

    The FEI has a Code of Conduct containing 10 points that is required in the schedule of all FEI endurance rides.

      1. In all equestrian events, the horse must be considered paramount.
      2. The well being of the horse shall be above the demands of breeders, trainers, riders, owners, dealers, organizers, sponsors, or officials.

    If the two dead horses could speak, how would they rate our concern for the standards that this code requires? Who speaks for the horse?

    I am most proud of the USA team. I think they upheld the highest ideals for endurance riding under extremely difficult and trying circumstances. They not only talk the talk – they walk the walk. Only a few can make this claim from the 2002 Jerez Endurance WEG.

    If any of you have any comments or questions, I would be glad to provide any information that I have.

    Carpe Diem