Three closely-spaced endurance rides in March at Dubai International Endurance City in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) saw at least two suspected and unreported horse deaths, and the downgrading of a scheduled CEI*** to a CEN, likely to avoid the FEI’s strict new measures regarding endurance.

Endurance racing in the UAE had been suspended earlier this year over continued concerns of horse welfare, including several equine deaths and video evidence of multiple cases of horse abuse. The FEI permitted the sport to resume under the FEI banner after the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) agreed to 12 welfare measures.

Despite the agreement, however, the Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup held on March 19th was downgraded to a national event, but had previously been listed on the FEI calendar as a CEI*** and a qualifying event for the 2016 World Endurance Championship hosted by Dubai this December. The FEI does not have jurisdiction over national competitions.

In response to these allegations, an FEI spokesperson stated, “The event on 19 March, which was on the FEI Calendar, was downgraded to a CEN by the organising committee. We have asked the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) to submit a report to us by 29 March and the information in that report will be provided to the FEI Bureau for discussion at its in-person meeting early next month. As part of that discussion the FEI Bureau will evaluate whether the 12 approved measures have been enforced.”

When asked whether there had been a horse death during the race, the FEI replied, “‎We have already received an informal report from the event on 19 March stating that there were no incidents.” However, there have been reports of further horse deaths at a 100-km ride on March 15th and another at a 120-km ride on March 21st.

The group Clean Endurance reported on their Facebook page on Mar 22, 2016, that a certain number of foreign riders decided not to participate in this event, following the German national federation’s example, which asked their athletes to abstain from competing. Clean Endurance are asking concerned horse people to support a petition asking the FEI to remove the World Endurance Championships from Dubai and instead stage the championships in a country which abides by FEI regulations. The petition currently has 5,585 signatures towards its 7,000-signature goal; it can be accessed on change.org here.

RECENT UAE RIDE RECAPS

Crown Prince Endurance Ride for Private Stables, 100 km CEN, March 15
– 41 finishers of 143 starters (28.67% completion rate)
– 102 disqualifications, failures to qualify or retirement due to rider retirement, irregular gaits, metabolic, forbidden assistance, metabolic invasive, one disqualification for changed rider, and one catastrophic injury to Rivlyn Enterprise, a 2002 chestnut gelding ridden by Saeed Mohd Ibrahim Al Baloushi (UAE)
– winner’s avg speed – 30.69 (36.46 on final loop)

Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup, 120km CEN, March 19 (replaced CEI***)
– 59 finishers of 152 starters (38.82% completion rate)
– 93 disqualifications, failures to qualify or retirement due to rider retirement, irregular gaits, failed to complete, or metabolic.
– winner’s avg speed – 27.86 (32.99 on final loop)

Endurance Trainer’s Cup, 120km CEN, March 21
– 21 finishers of 106 starters (19.81% completion rate)
– 85 disqualifications, failures to qualify or retirement due to rider retirement, irregular gaits, metabolic, ground jury decision, one metabolic invasive, and one catastrophic injury to Texas, a 2006 grey gelding ridden by Sh. Mohamed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa (BRN).
– winner’s avg speed – 27.13 (27.86 on final loop)