Sunday, February 26, 2023

Clean Endurance hopes Butheeb success will begin to restore sport’s tactical riding tradition


26 February 2023

Clean Endurance is relieved that the 2022 FEI World Endurance Championships (WEC) in Butheeb, Abu Dhabi on February 25th did not result in as many welfare issues as feared. The 160 km long course was ridden at lower average loop speeds (around 21 kmph for the leaders) than recent major events at the same venue.

Clean Endurance is hopeful that the success of the Butheeb 2022 WEC will impact on the manner in which other Endurance competitions, in this region and elsewhere, will be conducted: the results of this event illustrate that it is possible to stage a compelling and tactical event, even on prepared desert tracks, without the hell-for-leather racing which is so damaging to horses and provides no strategic interest.

Prior to the WEC event the FEI warned athletes they must pace themselves carefully and it looks like this warning was heeded by the majority of participants. According to the FEI results there were no Serious or Catastrophic Injuries.

44 out of the 122 horses on the start list successfully completed the 160 km course: the monetary completion awards offered by the Butheeb Organising Committee did unfortunately not appear to be a major incentive for improving the success rate.

Clean Endurance believes the high percentage of Metabolic eliminations (27 horses, a third of all eliminations) remains a source of concern: although it evidences the particular care taken by the officials while examining the horses, it also suggests many horses were overridden. Metabolic eliminations should be largely avoidable with careful management and the results of the 2022 FEI World Endurance Championships indicate there is still progress to be made in that domain.

The disparity between the first combinations across the finish line and the rest of the field illustrates the ‘racing’ versus ‘to finish is to win’ mentality which continues to divide Endurance. More than 2 hours separate the 1st combination across the finish line from the 11th, and the last combination to successfully complete the course arrived 4,5 hours after the winner. Clean Endurance applauds those athletes who ride according to the conditions of the day while making horsemanship and horse welfare a priority.

Clean Endurance also commends the ride strategy of those nations which opt for a concerted team effort rather than aiming for individual medals at the potential cost of injuring their horses and shortening their careers due to high speeds. France and Portugal were rewarded for their team strategies with silver and bronze team medals respectively, whereas the UAE lost their gold individual and team medals when their horses failed to recover enough to pass the final veterinary inspection after sprinting on the last loop at over 27 KMPH.

Clean Endurance sincerely hopes this successful event is a concrete step out of troubled waters for UAE endurance, which still has a lot to do to redeem its sullied reputation. Of particular concern are the number of doping violations as illustrated by the sanctions on record for some of the UAE team members, as well as the extreme speeds regularly seen at the Al Wathba and Dubai venues. There also remain issues with the transparency of reported local competition results and the complete lack of FEI oversight on ‘national’ rides, notably at Al Wathba which opted out of FEI competitions following the major Endurance rules overhaul three years ago.

Clean Endurance is a global collective which aims to restore the traditional values of their sport. It combats fraud, doping and abuse in collaboration with the FEI, National Federations and numerous other stakeholders.

Clean Endurance is happy to supply links for further reading, including coverage in bona fide news media.

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