UPDATE: The FEI confirmed to Horsetalk early today (13.2.14) that the incident described in this article was reported to the ground jury. It said it had now received the official report from the ground steward. The rider and winner of the event, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, of Bahrain, was given a yellow card and fined 500 Swiss francs.The rider and the groom involved were also suspended by the Bahraini National Federation until the end of the endurance season. Read the latest report here.
British equestrian journalist Pippa Cuckson confirms she is sharpening her pencil to lodge a formal complaint to the FEI over horse welfare concerns arising from video footage of a recent endurance race in Bahrain.
The footage shows a person who was presumably a member of the rider’s support crew appearing to strike a horse in the rump area near the end of a 120-kilometre endurance race.
Cuckson, equestrian correspondent for The Telegraph in Britain, said she was one of two journalists who attended this week’s endurance conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, where delegates considered changes to rules sparked by growing concern among several national federations over welfare concerns and drug infractions centred on the FEI Group VII nations of Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain.
Cuckson, writing in the Telegraph, noted that the nations primarily targeted by the proposed rule changes – the result of an international consultation process – had not shown up for the conference. She labelled their absence a boycott.
She reported that, while at the conference, she showed the FEI’s director of endurance, Ian Williams, the footage, which had been posted online by the Bahrain event live-stream broadcaster. She said he invited her to lodge a formal complaint.
Cuckson told Horsetalk today that she would be lodging a formal complaint, given that Williams had invited her to do so.
She said it was likely she would do so on Thursday. She said she would be reading the FEI’s endurance rules to identify the rules allegedly breached. She believed the footage revealed multiple breaches.
Cuckson said the footage came from the last leg of Saturday’s King’s Cup.
The footage, which has been viewed by Horsetalk, was produced to the accompaniment of music. It shows a significant number of vehicles being driven beside the desert course.
The horse appears to slow, and two men emerge from a nearby pickup truck and run towards the horse. The footage appears to show one of them beating the horse on the rump with an object. The animal then quickens its pace, later breaking into a canter.
Towards the end of the clip the music subsides and a cacophony of horns can be heard as the rider thrusts an arm in the air.
Williams told Cuckson: “We cannot do anything without someone properly supplying us with the evidence and an explanation of why they think a rule has been broken, and who is willing to maybe make their case to the [FEI] Tribunal at a later date.”
Welfare concerns centred on the Middle East have threatened to spark an international rift in the sport, with concerns raised by a number of national federations over worrying fracture rates, the number of drug infractions that have been dealt with by the FEI Tribunal in recent years, and other welfare concerns from the region.
The FEI held a round-table conference and appointing a planning group to investigate changes, which led to this week’s conference.