Has Endurance Racing Morphed Into ‘Win At All Cost’ Flat-Track Racing?

by | 10.01.2018 | 8:31am

The American The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) executive committee, in a letter to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the governing body of horse sport in the United States, has requested immediate withdrawal of funding to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) endurance events held outside U.S. borders.

An international discipline, the sport of endurance is based on long-distance races that are completed at controlled speed, with the care and health of the horse key in riders' minds. Horses must pass veterinary inspections as specific intervals during the competition. Flat-track endurance riding has evolved in the last decade and is vastly different than endurance riding; it focuses on much faster, prolonged speeds on groomed courses. Endurance riding is held on natural terrain.

The letter states that the committee feels that riders of extreme flat-track racing “know nothing about riding their horses within their capabilities according to the weather and terrain of the day. Their objective is often 'winning at all costs.'” The committee feels that this approach is vastly divergent from the traditional endurance competitions, where “to finish is to win.”

The AERC feels that the recent World Equestrian Games (WEG), held in Tryon, N.C., this past September, was an example of the wining-at-all-costs mentality. When the on-site veterinarians wanted to slow the acceptable equine pulse rate to 60 beats per minute so that the horses could have additional veterinary monitoring, their decision was overturned by the FEI organizers, to the detriment of equine welfare. The hot and humid weather, coupled with rain-soaked terrain, were hard on endurance horse's metabolic function; one horse was euthanized after suffering from kidney issues (a Team New Zealand horse named Barack Obama, ridden by Jenny Champion).

In total, 53 of the 95 horses that began the endurance competition in Tryon needed veterinary treatment, including 32 that needed IV fluids.

The AERC is asking that all funds for FEI-sanctioned competitions be focused instead on U.S. national events. It also encouraged support for an online petition that asks for more drug testing, tougher penalties for failed drug tests, and additional show requirements to help ensure the safety of the horses.

Read more at the American Endurance Ride Conference

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