3 weeks — but who’s counting?

27 Jul

standing on soapbox



I guess you find out what you believe in by finding out what you are willing to stand up for; what you are willing to stick your neck out for, despite the fact that friends and others roll their eyes.

The unbelievable situations in Africa, where a few sadists keep a continent enchained, except for tiny spots that act as cash machines for other countries.

The unhindered slaughter and destruction and erasure of African elephants, of the great whales, of the bees.

The never-ending litany of abuse and cruelty all over the world.

For me, I guess it is the deaths of the endurance horses, the toll ever growing despite the mounting protests from all quarters except, apparently, our FEI governing body.

In a sport where a truly large number of horses can and do have obviously sore backs as a result of running at top speeds over 160 km  (  99+ miles) carrying quite often heavy riders–heavy in weight and heavy in the way they sit– our governing body has most recently raised the alarm for horse welfare by asking VAULTING to check into new materials for their backpads.

As thought the vaulting world is unaware that the back all the humans land on, repeatedly in both training and performance, might need attention and care.

This would not be so ridiculous if equal time was given to turning the governing body eye on endurance. But here we are– with NEW and MORE rules going into effect on August 1st, 3 weeks before WEG…and yet the existing rules are still being openly flouted and remain unused.


Over 3,000 endurance figures in Europe and North America have signed a petition to FEI, strongly requesting that attention be paid to the problems.

Never mind the FEI excommunication-expulsion of outspoken member of the FEI Endurance Committee Pierre Arnould (and Belgian coach) who blew the whistle on endurance abuses;  never mind the Dutch chairman of the Endurance Technical Commission for KNHS , Marc van den Dunger, stepping down due to welfare concerns:  two horses recently  purchased from UAE  ” will have been ridden in five tough CEI competitions within a period of eight months,” concluded  van den Dungen. He continued by pointing out that this unbelievably heavy schedule is contrary to all the guidelines existing in KNHS and other top sport teams.

<<  “Endurance is currently being endangered by the practices that have recently been outlined by various federations and numerous individuals. These practices are getting worse over time and have begun to expand into the European competitions…” writes French rider-breeder Jean-Louis Tosque in the petition signed by over 3,000 riders..

The petition further points out  that at the recent  Compiegne CEI (France), a World Games qualifying ride in May, there were several scandals including the “thin horse” whose image went viral  ;  the death of a  horse that was bought by the United Arab Emirates’ Sheikh Mohammed just two weeks before and ridden by a teenager who has already killed ANOTHER horse in competition; and unprecedented cases of dehydration.

In FEI endurance, no horse deaths even matter/are recorded let alone investigated unless they occur on European soil. This goes far to explain the existing rule that no horse can leave the competition until the day AFTER competition finishes AND an official vet has signed off on discharge papers.

It is an ugly reality that far too many competitors in various disciplines, not just endurance, flout all such authorization and stick broken horses into trailers, leave the showgrounds for home base, where said horses suffer ‘tragic accidents’ at home in their stall or paddock, please see neat Press Release outlining said tragedy which took place 2 days after competition.

And yes — Compiegne was organised by the same people who will run the World Games ride at WEG.

Another elephant in the room appears to be the reserpine-related suspension and then lifting of same suspension for New Zealand event riders Kevin McNab and Jock Paget. 

More recently, we have had a morphine-in-the-feedbags (so sorry, Ma’am, curtsey to the Queen of England, one of the bestest horsemen EVER) situation, which of course has turned out to be far wider than the Queen’s horse and has now been found in several other racehorses and more than one feed company.
One has to wonder whether or not similar circumstances produced the reserpine metabolites in the two Kiwi horses, an occurrence which has indeed happened before in FEI history.
Nevertheless, no one is curtseying to Jock Paget or offering him back his Badminton crown.
And finally, dressage judging.
The best way to improve judging, also the perception and reality of judging, is transparency: the release of marks by movement for each judge.
This is already done at more and more shows and is more than most sports ever reveal, including the much ballyhooed systems used by figure skating and gymnastics, sports that assign only marks, no comments whatsoever, and release only the combined result score.
Bias does not belong to judging in particular; bias is what informs and structures every human thought and deed, bar a few saints beyond human emotion. Singling out dressage judges for bias only serves to reinforce the idea that there are those who wish to control the sport so that the results will be ever more in line with their own perceptions–or bias.
Surely, the judging is imperfect as it is  done by human beings. In the same way that hospital surgery staffs hold M&M sessions to debate and disclose what went wrong in a procedure, so do judges get together to debate and discuss and try to improve.
Thank heavens the results in dressage are not (really) life and death, even though it feels that way during the competition.





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