The group charged with charting the next decade for the sport of endurance has held its first teleconference, with chairman Andrew Finding talking of a determined commitment over its mission.
The Endurance Strategic Planning Group was set up after a round-table session at the FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 24.
That meeting was called over growing concerns voiced by some European federations over a sorry litany of drug infractions in endurance in the past eight years, with a solid majority originating from the Middle East.
Most vocal on the issue was the Swiss Equestrian Federation, which wrote to the FEI about the issue, noting drug concerns and “tremendous” fracture rates.
The Swiss federation noted that, from 2010 to 2012, 41 endurance horses were found to be positive for banned substances.
Notably, it said, 82.9 per cent of the cases in endurance originated from the FEI’s zone VII – the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan.
The letter asserted that such breaches indicated “a clear disrespect of certain riders, trainers and veterinarians concerning the welfare of horses in sport and the FEI code of conduct”.
The federation called on the FEI to take immediate measures to increase medication controls, especially in nations known to have a high frequency of positive test results.
The Endurance Strategic Planning Group that arose out of the round-table meeting held its first meeting via teleconference on Tuesday, with Britain’s Finding joined by Dr Brian Sheahan, of Australia, Jean-Louis Leclerc, of France, Saeed Al Tayer, of the United Arab Emirates, Joe Mattingly, of the United States, the FEI’s Ian Williams, who is director of endurance, and Graeme Cooke, who is the director of the FEI’s veterinary services.
Finding said: “Together, we reviewed the FEI Bureau’s direction to us and considered the mission statement we have been given.
“We have all agreed that we are comfortable with accepting that mission statement and working to achieve the objective, which is to create an environment within which athletes compete in the spirit of fair play while horses compete in partnership with human athletes where at all times their welfare is of paramount concern.”
The group is tasked with coming up with a strategic plan for endurance over the next decade, with a framework that ensures the sport adheres to and promotes the highest Clean Sport standards and meets the FEI Code of Conduct for the Welfare of the Horse.
“This was a really good and positive meeting in which all members of the group provided valuable input with a determined commitment,” Finding said.
“Every member has undertaken to add detail in their area of special insight and knowledge over the next two weeks.
“We will review this work when we meet for our first face-to-face session in the first few days of October.
“Progressively through September and October we will develop the draft strategic ‘Plan in Outline’, which we will reveal at the endurance session which will take place on 6 November in Montreux, Switzerland, in the framework of the FEI General Assembly.
“As we move through our work, Dr Brian Sheahan and Ian Williams will be consulting the FEI Endurance Committee.
“Our aim is to keep the ‘Plan in Outline’ brief, simple and strategic in concept.
“There will be more work to be done to develop the strategy and then to develop an operational plan; we expect this to be completed after the FEI endurance session in November and after we have consulted all national federations on the strategic approach.”
Sheahan added: “I am very happy. We have already made a big step forward.”