The team and individual endurance championship competitions at the 2018 Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games, currently taking place at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, in Mill Spring, North Carolina, have been called off.
The organizing committee issued a statement around 6 p.m., local time, citing a “potentially dangerously high combination of heat and humidity,” along with trail conditions following heavy rains earlier in the afternoon.
“The decision to cancel, which is in accordance with FEI General Regulations, Article 109.12 was unanimous between the president of the ground jury, technical delegate, and president of the veterinary commission, and the organizing committee,” the statement said. “The decision is also in line with the FEI Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse, which states: c) Extreme weather: Competitions must not take place in extreme weather conditions that may compromise welfare or safety of the horse.”
Thomas Timmons, DVM, president of the veterinary commission said, “This was a difficult decision to make, but it was done with horse and athlete welfare in mind as the conditions this afternoon after the rain resulted in extremely high levels of humidity and, combined with rising heat, it was deemed unsafe to continue the ride.”
The statement said David Marlin, PhD, who has been studying heat and humidity studies for the FEI since the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, provided the ground jury with data from the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) index, which showed a reading of 31. Anything over 25 on the WBGT index is monitored very closely, and the officials agreed unanimously that 31 presented an unacceptable risk to horse welfare.
Published reports indicate that riders were on the third of four loops when the ride was cancelled.
The competition’s cancellation follows an eventful start to the morning. The 160-kilometer ride was stopped after riders completed the first loop because some teams were “misdirected” to the appropriate trail. Officials subsequently shortened the ride to a 120-kilometer competition.
All horses were reinspected prior to the competition resuming around 11:15 this morning.
“Following this morning’s false start, the FEI has tasked the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, which is onsite here at Tryon, to do a full investigation into the circumstances that resulted in some horse/athlete combinations being misdirected,” the FEI said in its statement. “The investigation will include interviews with the officials, volunteers, organizing committee and all other relevant personnel to provide a full picture of what happened. The findings will be presented to the FEI Bureau and the conclusions will then be made public.”
TheHorse.com will update this article when additional information becomes available.