The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Bureau has set up a temporary committee with a remit to urgently assess the issues currently affecting endurance. The committee will also carry out an in-depth rule review to identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its roots of endurance riding (as opposed to endurance racing), with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core while still maintaining the sport’s competitive aspect.
The temporary committee, which has been established under Article 36.1 of the FEI Statutes1, will be chaired by Sarah Coombs, BVetMed, MSc, MRCVS (GBR), a top FEI endurance veterinarian who has many years’ experience of officiating at FEI endurance events. Coombs was formerly the British Endurance team vet and is a trustee of the global equine charity World Horse Welfare and chair of its Veterinary Advisory Committee.
Other committee members include:
- Tarek Taher (KSA), an international endurance athlete and recently elected by his peers as a member of the FEI Athletes’ Committee;
- Pieter Wiersinga (NED), chef d’équipe of the Dutch endurance team, a police commissioner, and former head of the mounted police in the Netherlands;
- Meg Sleeper, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM (USA), who has competed in FEI endurance since 2005 and is also a trainer, official veterinarian, and veterinary cardiologist; and
- Tim Parkin, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ECVPH, MRCVS (GBR), who heads up the scientific research conducted at the University of Glasgow as part of the FEI’s Global endurance injuries Study and is a candidate for election as a member of the FEI Veterinary Committee.
To underline the importance of this discipline review and to facilitate communication between the temporary committee and the FEI Bureau, FEI 2nd Vice President Mark Samuel (CAN) will also be involved in the committee’s work.
“We need to bring the discipline back to the principles of the FEI where welfare of the horse and horsemanship prevail,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos. “The temporary committee will conduct a thorough review of the discipline with the aim of getting back to real endurance riding with the focus on horsemanship and the partnership between horse and human.
“The sport has evolved and there needs to be a recognition of that, but the essence of the sport must remain the same,” De Vos continued. “What we need are rules that place greater emphasis on completion of the event, rather than the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that is more and more threatening our sport.
“We have a strong chair in Dr. Sarah Coombs, who has a long-standing and in-depth understanding of the sport, particularly the horse welfare and veterinary aspects,” he added. “With this new role she will be helping steer this crucial next step by leading a committee of extremely knowledgeable members that is focused on regulatory change driven by science with horse welfare at its heart.”
Meanwhile, prior to creating the temporary committee, the FEI Bureau received and accepted the resignation of Brian Sheahan, BVSc, MACVSc (AUS), as chair of the FEI endurance technical committee due to ill health. His eight-year term in office was due to expire in 2020. De Vos thanked Sheahan for his dedication and passion for the sport and wished him a speedy recovery.
In a further development, the Bureau has provisionally relieved Ignasi Casas Vaque, DVM (ESP), of his rights and duties as deputy chair and member of the FEI endurance committee due to pending legal proceedings for alleged incorrect behavior at the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018.
The FEI Legal Department last week initiated a disciplinary action against Casas Vaque based on evidence provided to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit during its investigation into the cancelled endurance event in Tryon on Sept. 12. Any additional disciplinary actions against other individuals involved in events at Tryon last month will be announced in due course.
Due to the chairman’s resignation and the pending legal proceedings involving the deputy chair, the FEI endurance committee is currently unable to function as a full committee. However, the remaining members—Shanie Bosch-Fourie (NAM), Rocio Echeverri (CRC), and Stéphane Chazel (FRA)—will remain as members for their terms and until further notice. The temporary committee will be asked to consult with them to ensure their expertise is not lost during the review process.
The temporary committee will start work as soon as possible with the plan to hold an endurance session at the FEI Sports Forum 2019, where they hope to provide delegates with an update.