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[RC] Endurance - FEI, UAE - StephTeeter

Last night was the closing dinner for the Presidents Cup. Outdoors at the
Hilton in Abu Dhabi. A little breezy and chilly, but a nice gathering for
the International guests. Live music - a traditional bedouin group of
musicians and dancers. Low key and pleasant. Gifts for all of the riders and
crew - for the women small gold horse pendants designed by Mohammed al
Saed's (OC Chair) daughter, and khanjar knives (the traditional curved knife
in a sheath) for the men. Nothing excessive, but very nice.

I spoke with some of the veterinarians who have spent several years over
here, helping shape Endurance in UAE. Basically trying to protect the sport
and the horses from the fiercely competitive attitude. The speed and
performance of the endurance horse has pretty much peaked here. Best horses,
best trainers, best vets, hundreds of horses in each of the major stables.
It's now comparable to UAE flat track racing in that respect. The very best
horses, that withstand the rigours of training, will be the winning horses -
one in hundred at best. And then there is the rest... the rest of the
horses, the rest of the world.

The question now is how to keep this sport alive and interesting and
competitive and still protect the horse. One of the topics mentioned was
that of qualification rides, or even divisions of rides. This is what has
happened in flat track racing, and all of the other major equestrian sports
have some sort of proving and qualifying phases. It is logical, and probably
inevitable, that Endurance at the FEI level will eventually adopt the same
safeguards and levels of competition. In my PERSONAL OPINION - this is where
the split between Endurance (USA style) and Endurance (FEI/UAE style) will
occur. I don't think the sport will ever change at home, it's too enjoyable
and engaging just the way it is - any horse, any rider, any trail - for
leisure sport and for the enjoyment of the horse and the outdoors.  But at
the FEI level, International competition, we are going to have to find a way
to separate the proven horses from the novice horses, the truly elite
athletes from the 'also rans'.

John and I attended a training course for FEI Judges and Stewards last week.
Ian Williams (head of Endurance, FEI) and Jim Bryant DVM ran the course. It
was excellent, and addressed the issues and problems that the sport is
facing, and the increasing need for qualified judges and stewards. The FEI
has passed a new set of rules which will be effective January 1, 2006. The
biggest change is in the qualification rule - 'Certificate of Capability'-
that horses and rides must obtain to compete Internationally. The new rules
are available on the FEI website, www.horsesport.org . To paraphrase the
qualification -

Beginning in 2006, to participate in a Championship level event (WEC,
Continental Championship) horse and rider must have completed a one-day
160km CEI*** event in a ride time of 12 km/hr - or 13 hours, 20 minutes -
within 24 months of the championship event.  OR - if a rider wishes to
compete on a horse on which he/she has not met the above qualfication, then
the horse must have completed three one-day 160km rides, all of them in the
13:20 window, and one of them must have been an FEI sanctioned event. The
practical consequence of this is that for the 2006 WEC in Aachen, this rule
will apply. This is going to limit the pool of qualified horse/rider teams -
a 13 1/2 hour finish at Biltmore or Fort Howes will no longer suffice as

(Caution: the following paragraph is totally subjective, I'm going to vent a
little ). At a recent conference call of the USEF High Performance Athletes
committee (USEF riders elected to the committee), of which I am a member, a
motion was put forward to recommend to the USEF Endurance committee that the
mileage requirement qualification for horses to be nominated for the 2006
WEC be eliminated. The proposal put forward by a committee member was to
allow riders to nominate horses with no previous mileage requirement. By
majority vote, the committee recommended that the horse requirement to have
completed two 100 mile rides be eliminated. The committee recommended by
majority vote that the requirement of the horse to have completed 500
lifetime miles be  reduced to 200 lifetime miles. The argument of persuasion
was that 'we need younger faster horses to compete' and that 'we have too
many old high mileage horses trying to compete'. I have to ask - what was
the age of the US horses that have won World Championships in the past? It
appears to me that some are now promoting the quest for 'victory' at all
costs. This is short sighted and IMO foolish. Do we really want to allow
riders to nominate 6 year old horses, that have done 4 50-mile rides, to be
considered to represent the US at a World Championship 160km race. The
potential for pushing horses beyond the limit of conditioning is very high
in this circumstance. We might see some younger horses turning out faster
ride times w/o the lameness issues that often accompany high mileage
horses... but we probably won't see these horses compete successfully for
very long. What is the cost? And do we, USEF, really want to endorse this
attitude, this 'message'. I personally do not.

Ok, venting over.

later -



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