Enduring Observations

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ERF is very grateful to Australian Vet and Endurance Rider, Anna Erickson, for allowing us to reproduce her comment on Endurance riding from her perspective. 

This is even more significant as news is filtering through from the Middle East that various UAE Endurance Stables are insisting that the FEI has lifted the ban. Which of course is entirely untrue. 

“After yet another scary looking pic and yet another argument about how to interpret it along with the usual comments that we “weren’t there so we don’t know” and “it’s rare” and “I’ve seen horses as bad as that in Australia” I feel compelled to write. As a vet who also rides endurance (which many of my clients know) I just want to say “the (horse) world is watching”! Many of my clients who don’t ride endurance have asked me:

1. Have you seen that picture? (Splitters Creek Bundy)
2. What in the hell is going on in endurance?
3. Have you seen anything like this here?
4. How do people justify still selling horses to the UAE?

To which my answers are:

1. Yes
2. I don’t really know but clearly we have a problem in the Middle Eastern countries and we need to sort it out
3. No
4. I have no idea.

These are not endurance people, but they are concerned horse people.

We cannot obfuscate, we cannot be apologists, and we cannot try and divert attention by saying “oh things like that happen everywhere” (or worse “in Australia”). Have we forgotten that we nearly didn’t have a Quilty because the RSPCA had concerns? Or that the reason we have such good horse welfare rules now is because there was a National enquiry? I think we can safely say endurance will never be an Olympic sport now: we must all step up to make sure it continues in it’s current form. Otherwise the sport we all know and love will no longer exist and the UAE and others will go and play in their own sandbox.

But we don’t know exactly what went on I hear you say… Nor do I, but I do know that the FEI is a behemoth, riddled with politics, and slow to act. For them to take the unprecedented step they have to ban a country from competing, the evidence has to be pretty overwhelming. The wheels of justice will turn exceedingly slow, but hey: it’s the FEI. You want to play in their playground, you have to abide by their rules.

Trial by social media is crap you say. Well yes, it is, but it will happen regardless. Far better that we are out there saying that ANY horse abuse or cheating is not acceptable, that we have the processes in place to make sure Australian endurance is clean, and that we ALL care about horse welfare, than that we fling abuse and innuendo at each other. You may not agree with everything that happens in the sport here, but we do have ways and means of dealing with genuine issues (and again – we elect a governing body. You wanna be in it, you have to play by the rules, whether you like them or not!)

Eventually, there will be a long and exceedingly wordy report, and a way for the UAE to return will be negotiated. Some if us will be glad, others will be suspicious, most of us will continue to play in our own little corner where we never really thought about international endurance until we were forced into the position of having to talk about it.

In the meantime, I truly believe we need to be better than the best in order to save this sport. Not only that but we need to be SEEN to be better than the best. If you have real evidence of cheating or horse abuse in the country (and I mean evidence, not scuttlebut) STEP UP and report it! Accept that SOMETHING went on in the UAE, and don’t resort to throwing mud at others. It sticks, and it will stick to all of us.

And if you still sell horses to the UAE, you’d better be damn sure where they are going.”