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Cuckson Report | January 6, 2017
If you want just a glimmer of understanding about what officials are up against in UAE endurance, watch this interview during a FEI ride at Dubai International Endurance City (DIEC) on Wednesday (January 4th).
It’s nine minutes of hysterics in both senses, from the shrillness of the discussion to the content which would be hilarious if it not so serious. It is a snapshot of the institutionalised disrespect for sporting authority in that region. It is also just a tiny component of the overwhelming evidence that, despite efforts to reform in recent years, desert racing has no business whatsoever sitting alongside properly regulated disciplines within the FEI family.
I have never seen anything like this shouting match between a TV presenter – from endurance specialists YAS Sport – and a senior judge in my 35 years reporting top level equestrianism. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking the cheaters are somehow the injured parties.
Hats off to the ground jury president for valiantly standing his ground regarding the process of fair play, horse welfare, and that he can’t know about rule-breaking that does not happen in front of his own eyes if he is not told about it – endurance isn’t exactly a contained arena sport!
The topic is less significant than the anarchic attitude, though this spat happened to be about ear-plugs, banned under FEI rules since January 2016. Their routine use, in tandem with extreme blinders, is a symptom of shoddy preparation. The trainers need another way to cocoon novice horses from the chaos of a mass start where they may be knocked about by other equally inexperienced horses piloted by people of limited skill.
Some readers may recall the picture that went viral after the 2015 President’s Cup, of the horse wearing taped-shut blinders and earplugs. He turned out to be one of the 500-odd “starters” in the “phantom rides” scandal. He was not, in reality, qualified to start the 160km President’s Cup. For all we know, that was his first ride ever.
The ear-plug ban is yet another FEI rule of which participants claim to be either unaware, notwithstanding their status as “professional” trainers at the premier UAE barns, or aware but proud to ignore. At this far from lady-like ladies’ ride at DIEC, the YAS presenter is claiming trainers cheerfully admitted to sending out horses in ear-plugs (also referred to as “blocks”). Yet, incredibly, the trainers reckon it’s the ground jury, not the trainers, who are at fault for catching and punishing some of the ear-pluggers, but not the others!...
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