Strength of Endurance GB membership’s views on welfare changes to get a hearing in front of FEI General Assembly
The views of Endurance GB members on vital rule changes to the sport at international level are to be presented at the FEI General Assembly in Moscow (16-19 November).
Chair of Endurance GB Rebecca Kinnarney has been invited to represent the British Equestrian Federation at the pivotal meeting for the sport on changes to improve welfare proposed by vet Dr Sarah Coombs and the FEI’s Temporary Endurance Committee.
The move comes after Ingmar De Vos, President of the FEI, met with Rebecca Kinnarney on behalf of Endurance GB and representatives of the other equestrian disciplines at the BEF on 14th August, the eve of the FEI European Endurance Championships
The FEI General Assembly acts as a platform for discussions and voting on the major decisions of the FEI and the governance of equestrian sport. Invitation and attendance at the annual General Assembly is restricted to National Federations, stakeholders and guests
The invitation by the BEF to Endurance GB confers speaking rights at the meeting and will enable Rebecca Kinnarney to represent the strongly expressed views of members articulated through a consultation process undertaken by Endurance GB with its membership this summer.
Rebecca said: “This consultation process has drawn an impressive and detailed response from across Endurance GB’s membership with a great deal of knowledge and expertise underpinning a desire from us all in the UK to see changes implemented internationally to protect horse welfare and safeguard the future of the sport.
“The feedback we have had from members underlines the desire among all riders for greater transparency in the FEI’s governance of the sport including in disciplinary matters relating to welfare at rides and for future participation in decision making. Dr Sarah Coombs and her team are to be applauded for their hard work and for pinpointing areas of concern and showing leadership where there is need for change. It is a great honour for Endurance GB to be invited to attend the General Assembly and I will do my utmost to give voice to the strength of opinion in our endurance community in the UK at this crucial time.”
Kerry Dawson, Communications Director for Endurance GB said: “The Board of Directors of Endurance GB fully support the drive for more stringent measures to reduce competition speeds and increase horse welfare controls, working with both the BEF and FEI with a view to facilitate meaningful change. The board and membership is working together on this and we will all be wishing Rebecca well in Moscow.”
In total, 21 of the rule changes proposed by the Temporary Endurance Committee are agreed or agreed in principle by Endurance GB members and proposals to decrease speed and increase welfare are welcomed however Rebecca Kinnarney said “These new rules, like any previous rules, will only work if they are applied and proposed changes on the appointment and rotation of officials should go some way to ensuring that happens.”
Rule changes proposed by Sarah Coombs committee include reducing the minimum athlete weight to 70kg for senior CEI2* and above. The Temporary Endurance Committee acknowledges that currently, the minimum weight is seen as a means of reducing the risk associated with excessive speed. Feedback from Endurance GB members suggests that 59% of people who responded to the consultation were in favour of a proposal to reduce the weight however many UK riders want weights abolished altogether, or perhaps just restricted to championships. Some have suggested that weight divisions of the kind operated in the United States, may solve the issue, while some EGB riders would like there to be a maximum weight.
Rebecca Kinnarney said: “While 59% of members who took part in the process are in favour of this change, Endurance GB members are voicing increased concerns about excessive speeds and while we welcome the spirit of this rule change, there are suggestions that there are better and more ethical ways of slowing horses down than applying weight to solve the problem.”
On other issues, nearly 90% of respondents were in favour of increased penalties for removing a horse from the field of play without veterinary inspection. The new rule will say that a horse must be presented for inspection within 20min of removal. The reasoning according to the Temporary Endurance Committee is that currently there are insufficient consequences for horses being removed from the Field of Play without presentation to the Veterinary Commission or treatment vets. The Committee found this was being done in order to avoid designations for metabolic problems or gait abnormalities and associated Mandatory Rest Periods or even sanctions for Serious or Catastrophic Injury. The Committee has voiced concerns that this potentially risks seriously injured horses not receiving veterinary treatment as well as the under-reporting of injuries, including subsequent fatalities. The new rule would see both the rider and trainer of the horse each receiving 100 penalties if a horse is not presented for veterinary inspection before being removed from the competition.
Rebecca Kinnarney said: “We will be making clear there is strong agreement from UK riders with this proposal with some suggesting it should lead not just to penalties but to an automatic ban.”
Endurance GB members have also agreed in principle to rule changes governing the number of loops with 77 per cent of respondents in favour of a suggestion that an increased number of phases will reduce horse welfare risks associated with excessive speed. The proposal will also ensure that horses are inspected more frequently by the Veterinary Commission so that problems can be detected at an earlier stage.
Dr Coombs’ committee has raised concerns that continuous crewing of horses, pouring cold water on them throughout the later stages of a ride in particular, encourages athletes to push their horses further and faster than they are capable of.
One Endurance GB competitor however, wrote: “Personally I feel multi short loops returning to the same vet gate is a welfare issue in itself - get back to vet gates on course and more technical courses (or endurance rides ) re-introduce the no crewing rule within certain distances from the vets gates and many of our issues will disappear.”
A new rule setting heart rate parameters to 64 beats per minute in a presentation time of 15 minutes at all vet gates and 64 bpm in 20 minutes at the final Horse inspection, sees 71 per cent responding in favour.
The new rule will also mean that at the first vet gate after the halfway point in a ride (based on distance covered), horses that present with a heart rate greater than 68 bpm at the first presentation will not have the opportunity for a heart rate re-presentation and will be designated FTQ-ME.
One Endurance GB rider observed “This is evidence-based and in the interests of horse welfare,” while another said: “I agree with the shorter presentation times. I do not agree with 68bpm at first inspection is an elimination. It will only slow people’s presentation times not their speed out on course.”
Changes to rules on qualification through the ranks from CEI1* to Championship level with capped speeds and completion percentages used to enable riders to step up, saw members voice some concern.
Rebecca Kinnarney said: “The proposed changes are in response to requests from National Federations for a more robust qualification system and areas of concern over horse and rider combinations and the system where the new European Champion had not ridden the winning horse in FEI competition before, need to be looked at, however this will need some adaptation to make it feasible for all nations competing in endurance.”
Plans to reduce the number of crew in the crewing area from five to three found favour but proposals to bring permitted tack and equipment into line with other disciplines and to reduce the use of barrier creams drew a mixed response with just 59 per cent in favour.
To see a summary of Endurance GB responses to the rule change proposals please go to www.endurancegb.co.uk/main/Portals/2/Downloads/FEIrulechangesummaryFinal.docx