AERC Considers Severing Ties With FEI

At the recent two-day American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) held in Atlanta, one of the main topics of discussion was the possibility of the United States forming an international governing body separate from the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). This was prompted by reports of doping and injuries in the sport in the Middle East, many instances which are said to remain unreported…

These concerns were expressed in a an open letter composed by board-members of the AERC in November 2013, noting that if the FEI does not act to enforce the sport's rules which take into account the welfare of the horses, the AERC will considering severing ties with the FEI and forming a new international association.

The FEI has proposed a range of measures aimed at enforcing endurance racing rules and caring for the health of the equine competitors. The proposals include a measure to ban riders who cause serious injury to horses – an issue arising out of the extreme competitiveness of riders who ignore the principle of "to finish is to win" and push their horses to reach higher speeds over extended periods.

The AERC has requested the FEI to prove that it has introduced the proposed measures in the Middle East and that competitors are, in fact, following the rules. The AERC has given the FEI until January 1, 2015 to 'demonstrate measurable progress towards addressing the AERC's concerns'. Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, junior wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – a prominent figure in the international horse racing community – is the President of the FEI, which critics consider to be a conflict of interest.

Endurance riding is one of the seven disciplines recognized by the International Equestrian Federation, the others being dressage, combined driving, eventing, reining, show jumping and vaulting. In endurance riding, there are mandatory check points where horses are assessed by a veterinarian before continuing. Most races in the United States cover a distance of 50 or 100 miles. New riders and young horses may compete in Limited Distance Competition. Most enduring riding events are not competitive against other riders, but rather a measure of the endurance of the horse and rider, and completing the race with a clean bill of health from the veterinary checks is considered to be a win.

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