Yes, it’s more than a month since the FEI GA began to fade in our rear view mirrors, but I still can’t get the thing out of my mind. Here are a few lingering aftertastes that no amount of brain Listerine seems to be able to dissolve:

1. Horse Welfare in Endurance – oh not that tired old refrain again, you say? Well, I bet I can tell you something about Endurance that you didn’t know, and that will make your skin crawl. If you want to compete in an FEI sanctioned Endurance race (and no, I don’t personally like calling them races – I prefer their old timey name ‘rides’ – but as they really are just flat races now let’s call a spade a spade), you have to qualify. So does your horse. But the two of you DON’T HAVE TO QUALIFY AS A COMBINATION.  Yes, that’s right. You are eligible to ride a horse you have never seen in a 160 km race, as long as you meet some very minimal capability criteria, which do not include knowing a single thing about the horse you are on.  You know what the FEI states as its justification for this policy? You guessed it: Welfare. Don’t believe me? When I asked the FEI communications dept to explain, this is the response I got, verbatim:  “The rule was introduced to allow riders to travel around the world to compete, and to protect the welfare of horses (allowing competing horses to rest after competition).” Is it just me or does that sentence rely on some very faulty logic? Why would having the rider qualify on the horse not allow the horse to rest after competition? The FEI already has mandatory rest periods that are longer for longer distance races.

Here is the lightbulb that refuses to come on for me. I utterly fail to grasp the concept that it’s in a horse’s best interests to be ridden over the most grueling track in the entire FEI sporting universe – 160 km – by someone who probably doesn’t know the color of the horse until he walks up to it on the day of the race. Does anyone out there think that you can competently gauge a horse’s condition when you have no previous knowledge of the horse? If the FEI were to be a bit more forthright with its reasons for such a policy, I would like to suggest the ratinale should read as follows: “The rule was introduced to cater to mega-rich riders from the Middle East who pay other people to prepare their horses and simply turn up at races expecting to win. Horse welfare was not a factor in the creation of this rule.” I’m with Pippa Cuckson on the topic of Endurance. We’re not shutting up as long as horses are paying with their lives because rules are both insufficient and not being enforced. And why, you ask, am I raising this issue now? Because it was conspicuous by its absence throughout the Endurance Strategic Planning Group’s presentation in Montreux. The topic was neither mentioned nor raised by anyone.

2. the HRH Mystique – I’m frankly surprised there isn’t a Chanel or Givenchy fragrance called ‘HRH’. Or maybe, even simpler, ‘Haya’. A selling point of the fragrance could be ‘it makes you irresistible’. And that wouldn’t just apply to potential husbands. Bottling that charisma would make the possibilities limitless. The fragrance would give its wearer power over everyone who catches a whiff. Want a raise from your boss? Just spritz on a little ‘HRH’ and he or she will be putty in your hands. “How much did you say you wanted?” Want to get your kid into that tri-lingual pre-school that will teach your little tot how to make souffles by the age of five? Just a little ‘HRH’ will go a long way to persuading that head master. Want your coffee faster and hotter at Starbucks? Just send a little waft of your scent in the direction of the barista and you will instantly become the only customer in the store.  Before the GA this year, I’d been to press conferences with the Prez, but watching her in graceful, seamless action in Montreux was a mind-f#$k of the highest order.

3. What is with John Long? I sent him an email a few weeks ago because I was still a bit in awe of what he’d said about the media ‘telling’ delegates that they should be asking HRH to step down instead of begging her to stay another four years (and counting). Here is what I asked him in my email:

Hi John. I was at the FEI GA and was among the journalists to be greatly taken aback by what you said when you accused the media of making delegates believe that they would be asking for the president to step down. Not one member of the media invented the suggestion. It came from several European nations – nations that did not sign the petition to change the statutes. I spoke personally with a delegate from Switzerland at the end of the day; he confirmed that his federation stood by the position it has held throughout the endurance controversy.
I will be mentioning what you said in my coverage of the GA for Horse Sport International this week. I thought it only fair to contact you and ask if you wanted to clarify or explain the comments you made on the afternoon of November 7th.
thanks for your time,
Here is what John sent in response:
It’s not that I really expected him to respond. He has ignored me on past occasions, such as when I asked him about the mileage rule and when I asked him to clarify the date at which Bruce Burr’s suspension was lifted for being the trainer of Jane Clark’s horse that tested for cocaine at the US Olympic trials. I’m not sure what John plans to do when he retires from being CEO of USEF next June, but I’ve heard that he wants to spend more time with his family. I hope he replies to their messages a bit more often than he’s responded to me.