Endurance GB Carpet Sweeping over Fatality

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 17.08.55

Report on fatal horse injury at an Endurance GB race ride event 1 August 2015

(by Angela Corner)

There has been much scandal surrounding the sport of endurance riding in the last few years, multiple cases of horse doping, cheating, rule breaking and horse fatalities culminating in the FEI taking the unprecedented step of suspending an entire Nation (the UAE) from international competition. This shows the scale of the problems at international level.

However it is not only at international level that problems and horse fatalities occur. One such fatality happened this year in the UK under the organisational banner of Endurance GB. Endurance GB followed correct procedure and investigated the fatality and seven weeks after the fatality issued the following statement:

“Endurance GB Statement – (Published:19 September 2015)

The investigation into the horse fatality following the Hexhamshire Trophy Ride has been concluded. The findings were that Ijaaz suffered a freak accident, the details of which have now been communicated to the Board.

Following communications from some concerned members, EGB will be reviewing its processes and rules. However, any review will not be a direct result of the findings of the investigation or the incident in question. Any proposed changes will be discussed and put forward to the members at the Annual General Meeting in November.”

This statement was published on 19 September and yet, strangely, only appears right at the bottom of the news page on the EGB website. The current list of news items on the EGB website are dated as such (newest item at the top) 19th Sept (report from EGM), 16 Sept (call for help at Red Dragon), 15 Sept (Veteran success at the College ride), 8 Sept (announcement of Welsh Team), 7 Sept (Home International news), 19 August (BHS Safety conference) and finally dated 19 Sept Statement about the fatality at Hexhamshire Trophy ride. You have to ask – why is the only news item not listed in chronological order the one that might paint EGB and endurance not in the best light?

As the EGB statement is so brief and hidden away I thought it worthwhile setting out the facts of the case for anyone who isn’t aware or doesn’t see the statement on the EGB website.

On 21 April 2015 an advert was placed on the Arabian Lines website classified page offering for loan an arab stallion called Ijaaz. The advert went as follows:

“Stallion for loan

Ijaaz (Narim- Ivory Wings) bred by Al Waha Arabians, is available for long term loan to an approved stud. He is now retired sound from ridden work and this would be an amazing opportunity for someone looking for some very special breeding (Russian- Crabbet) to add to there bloodlines. Ijaaz is a perfect gentleman and is regularly handled by my 11 year old daughter. He has competed at advanced level Endurance, Show jumping, Cross country and Dressage. Ijaaz loves attention and is very much part of our family so a 5* home is priority here.”

The important parts to note here are ‘available for long term loan to an approved stud’ and ‘retired sound from ridden work’. Ijaaz was a 20 year old horse who had last completed an endurance ride in 2010.

At some point following this advert Ijaaz was loaned to a woman called Danielle Gray. Danielle Gray (nee Coulson) had prior to this 2015 season competed successfully in endurance between 2002 and 2007 mainly on a horse called Euphorias Quest (b. 1994).

On 4 April 2015 Danielle Gray returned to competitive endurance on her old horse Euphorias Quest, now 21 years old. Neither rider nor horse had competed at endurance for a total of 6 years and 7 months. She and Euphorias Quest entered the National 80km (50 mile) Endurance race at Haywood Oaks. They were vetted out lame at that ride and eliminated. Euphorias Quest has not at present competed again following this lameness.

On 7 June 2015, seven weeks after the loan advert for Ijaaz was published on the Arabian Lines classified page, Danielle Gray entered Ijaaz in the National 80km (50 mile) Endurance Race at Wharncliffe Chase. Ijaaz had not competed in an endurance race since 10 April 2010, over five years previously. Ijaaz was vetted out lame at Wharncliffe Chase and eliminated.

On 25 July 2015 Danielle Gray and Ijaaz entered the National 92km (57 miles) Endurance Race at Lindum. Ijaaz was vetted out lame and eliminated.

On 1 August 2015, seven days after being vetted out lame at Lindum, Danielle Gray and Ijaaz entered the National two day 110km (68 miles) Hexhamshire Trophy Endurance Race. At some point during day one of the race Ijaaz suffered an injury out on course that proved fatal. He was taken to a local vets but the injury to a hind leg was judged to be of such severity that he was put to sleep.

Those are the facts available to any member of the public.

Endurance GB currently has no rules regarding the return of horses and riders to competitive rides following a break from the sport, so there was nothing to stop this rider entering two different horses into 50 mile endurance races, neither of which had competed in endurance for six years and five years respectively.

Endurance GB also currently has no mandatory rest periods following a horse vetting out at a ride. So there was no rule preventing Ijaaz having been vetted out lame on 25 July 2015 being entered in another endurance race 7 days later.

The FEI, following years of unacceptable levels of horse fatalities, injuries and doping cases, were forced to introduce the following rules regarding requalification and mandatory rest periods:

FEI Requalification rules:

Qualification for horses shall be valid for a period of 24 months. Should a horse fail to complete an event at the next level for which it has qualified within that period it will need to requalify for its existing level again before progressing further.

FEI Mandatory rest periods:

Rides of 0km – 80km mandatory rest period of 12 days 80km+ – 120km mandatory rest period of 19 days

Plus if vetted out lame an additional 14 days rest period
If vetted out lame on two consecutive occasions an additional 21 day rest period
If vetted out lame on three consecutive occasions an additional 90 day rest period.

Therefore in the case of Ijaaz if EGB had similar requalification rules to the FEI Ijaaz, previously an Advanced level horse, would have been classed at Open level on his return to competition and would have had to requalify to compete at Advanced level. He would not have been eligible to enter race rides. Instead he would have had to complete two 64km-80km graded rides before being upgraded back to Advanced level.

With regards mandatory rest periods after being vetted out at Lindum (his second consecutive vet out for lameness) Ijaaz wouldn’t have been able to compete again for 33 days (12 + 21).

It is impossible to say if EGB had requalification rules and mandatory rest periods that Ijaaz would have been saved from the catastrophic injury he suffered at Hexhamshire on 1 August 2015. However these rules were introduced by the FEI for the protection of the horse and would have provided guidance to the rider as to what is a sensible time period before a return to competing following being vetted out.

It is also worth noting that the FEI operate a penalty point system for riders. If you accumulate 100 penalty points you are suspended from competition for two months. A rider whose horse suffers a catastrophic injury is automatically awarded 50 penalty points. If that rider competes on another horse who suffers a catastrophic injury within a 12 month period of the first they are automatically suspended from competition for six months.

In brief this is a horrible sequence of events that ended with the untimely death of a 20 year old horse. A horse that had competed successfully at various sports and had been retired sound, but most definitely retired and offered on loan to a non-riding stud home. This is a horse that after not competing in endurance at any level for over five years was entered straight into an 80km race ride, less than seven weeks after being offered for loan as retired from ridden work. This is a horse that was vetted out on two consecutive occasions and then was still permitted to start a third race ride only seven days after previously being eliminated for lameness.

No Endurance GB rules were broken and the seven week Endurance GB investigation warranted only the briefest of statements buried at the bottom of their website stating the fatal injury was a freak accident. Rule changes are likely to be proposed regarding requalification and mandatory rest periods but as the statement says will not be as a direct result of this incident. Just a coincidence then?

We are free to draw our own conclusions about this tragic series of events and how the aftermath has been handled by Endurance GB however what is clear is that once again the sport of endurance is highlighted as a sport that DOES NOT appear to put the welfare of the horse as a priority and this time it has happened in our own backyard.