Thursday, December 05, 2013

FEI: The ESPG proposals... Why will that not work

by Leonard Liesens
December 1 2013

Even if we have been very sarcastic at the time of the cration of the ESPG group, we have to admit that the message some of their members delivered at Montrex was strong. Strong against the FEI who was passive in this case, strong against the authors of cheating and horse abuses.

Now the very nice Powerpoint presentations are now followed by questionnaires sent to the federations, with actions to be taken on short- and long tem. Once the replies will have been analyzed, after meetings, after one forum, updates and amendments, after the FEI Bureau, after the drafting of the season is over in the Middle East at that time.

All good, but all these actions are defined to cure a patient from sicknesses he doesn’t admit. The patient – or maybe better the guilty- of course are of course the Middle East stables. But this patient doesn’t live, doesn’t act and react, doesn’t think like us the Westerners. Even if these countries have embraced the worst excesses of our civilization, it is not sure they adopted our values. Our cultures are different, our political systems do not compare.

Things will not be changed by –even drastic- regulation changes. They are used to be obeyed, to request, to work around, to buy and corrupt if necessary , to be capricious. First they were colonized, then surrounded by courtesans. Now they buy everything: companies, horses, football clubs, officials.

Forget about it !

Do we believe that some officials incorruptible will lay dawn laws in the Gulf? We are making a big mistake. Possibly, some competitions in Europe will enforce a strict regulation, but let’s forget about putting that in place on events sponsored by the Middle East.

Eventually, who is forcing us to change a well-working regulation? The three countries from Middle East. These changes will have consequences on 90% of the riders and federations of the world, and first in Europe where are most of the endurance riders. Without this eventual new regulation forcing the Middle East stables to change their way of considering endurance. More bureaucracy is introduced with the new trainers ranking, with the database of accidents. More reasons for the FEI to present excuses for not taking action.

The notion of ‘trainer’ (see the slideshow of Saeed al Taher who didn’t even make the effort to come in Montreux) and the correlated changes in the regulation put forward by the later do not concern us. Who knows a rider in Europe not training his horses by himself? We don’t care about this concept. This proposal if the obvious evidence that the UAE do not want changing their system of endurance racing. This is not even endurance anymore. This is long distance flat racing! They adopted exactly the same structure as flat racing: owners, stables, trainers, jockeys and lads. In case of abuse, that will be the poor Pakistani trainer who get his ass kicked and will be sent back to his country, not the local one who pulls the strings! This one will remain in the shade and of course unsanctioned. The ESPG is not made of idiots and they know that perfectly.

The system for reporting fractures and accidents and fatalities is a bureaucratic monster. It will just pull the wool over the eyes of the 'naives'. Tee ESPG doesn't say how the data will be processed, who wil do, in which delay. Nothing about any sanction that should normally follow and be examined by the tribunal. No word about a 'supreme court' to control what's going on inside FEI. A 'supreme court' staffed by representatives of riders, officials, veterinarians, organizers should receive a copy of all data to make sure there is a follow-up. Too many cases transmitted by TD or Foreign Vet have finished in the bin or have been lost or declared invalid. Recent examples? (2013) Eclipse euthanized after Tarbes WEC2013. The horse has been injected during the competition. This has been withnessed and reported by a letter. No post-mortem, no doping control. Django de Vere euthanized after a joke of a race in Italy. No post-mortem, no action taken by the FEI. (2012) Three fatalities in France. Post-mortem have been done by veterinarians and the reports were damning. No reaction from FEI.

So what to do then to make our sport clean ?

1. Let them do what they want in the Gulf as long as they do not export their manners. Make their events non-FEI ones like CEN or others ; linking endurance racing with the racing industry would be perfect
2. Develop a global sponsoring model for endurance, like it exists for other equestrian disciplines; FEI should take action as it has been done with Longines for example; Championships must not be sponsored anymore by dummy companies (Meydan or Emirates Airline for example), which would give the free reins to the organizers
3. Put into practice one part of the ESPG actions : everything relating to the officials and thir probity and their capability to sanction without default the abuses and all excesses generated by the Middle East stables since a decade (grooms’ armada, wild and unauthorized crewing, disrespect of nature, VIP area, flat course, Elite statute, etc.)
Putting under scrutiny the events where Middle East countries are taking part :
4. a. No VIP statute to anyone – no access to VIP areas for riders during the event (there is no reason for giving an advantage over other competitors ; is this taking place in other sports ?) – no VIP cars on the trail except if accompagnied by steward – no special grooming and resting area
b. Appointement of incorruptible and intransigeant stewards capable of showing immediately YELLOW CARDS to riders not respecting the rules
c. Grooming area managed by the organizer. Shareable water tanks to be permanently filled-up by the organizers and limited in size and number. Access regulated by stewards. Only one liter bailer allowed. Only three grooms (wearing one bib with the horse number) are allowed. The slightest breach to be sanctioned by an immediate YELLOW CARD.
d. Only one or two crewing points per loop. Crewing only with one liter bailers and buckets distributed by the organizer. Crewing by the three grooms wearing the bibs with the horse number. Strict enforcement by stewards showing YELLOW CARDS at the slightest infraction.
e. Horses in the stables at least 48 hours before the start. No needle allowed during the 48 hours preceding the start (no fluids, no ‘vitamins’, no ‘protectors’, nothing, nada, niente). Immediate elimination in case of violation of the rule and transmission to the FEI Tribunal for further sanctions.
f. Strict limitation of the access to the field of play : start/finish, grooming area, vetgate area, exit of vetgate, rest area. YELLOW CARD showed to the rider in case of people breeching the rule (Are we allowing people walking on the show-jumping arena? Are we allowed to ramble on a golf green? On a football field? On a polo field? Of course NOT!!!
g. European Championships must be closed, with only competitors from Europe. This would at least ensure a fair competition. Anyway the FEI has decided this year that this will be the case. But the community has to be vigilant.

Wishful thinking? Maybe not if the endurance community stands up.
LĂ©onard Liesens