Horse Abuse in Endurance? I have the solution!

Recently I shared a post from the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) that said the discipline of Reining would be ejected from the FEI at the end of 2019. This is the first time, ever, an equestrian discipline has been ejected. Why reining? Here is the statement from the FEI.

Areas of concern: minimum horse ages, stewarding and anti-doping policy, and the money driven approach of the National Horse Reining Association ( NHRA) compared with the FEI’s performance based ideals. “

FEI
Live shot of Endurance riders at WEG 2018 before they had to be recalled due to cancellation of the competition.

Well, let me tell you that statement , even on my Horse Addict Leueen Facebook page, generated an outcry. If they were going to eject Reining then why not Endurance. While there are Endurance riders who abide by the rules, and put the welfare of the horse first, there a many from one region who do not. For years stories of abuse of horses in Endurance races, in certain areas of the world, have abounded. There have been photos and videos of horses with broken legs, horses being chased by cars and so on. But I am not going to show any of those,the only photos I will show are photos taken of the live feeds in the media center at the WEG in Tryon last year, where Endurance competition started but had to be cancelled due to heat concerns and other mishaps. So no abuse photos. Instead I am going to suggest an alternative sport for those Endurance riders who live in desert regions and are looking for an extreme sport.

The Ultra Marathon.

I only recently learned of this extreme sport . I read a marvelous book titled: “Finding Gobi” written by Ultra Marathoner Dion Leonard. This is a wonderful story of a man and a dog and I recommend it highly but…… back to Ultra Marathon. Here is how Dion describes it.

“…a team of race organizers had plotted a 155 mile route that took in those freezing peaks, the incessant wind and that desolate , lifeless scrubland known as the Gobi Desert. I was going to run across it, knocking out a little less than a marathon a day for four days, then almost two marathons on the fifth day and an hour-long sprint for the final six mile stage that would bring the race to a close. People like me pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of putting ourselves through pure agony, shedding up to 10 percent of our body weight in the process but it’s worth it. We get to run in some of the remotest and most picturesque parts of the world and we have the safety net of a dedicated support crew and highly trained medical crew on our side. Sometimes these challenges can be excruciating , but they’re also life changing, and reaching the finish line is one of life’s most rewarding experiences.”

Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard.

Hey! The FEI describes the equestrian discipline of Endurance in a similar way. “Riding extreme distances across breathtaking landscapes.”

In the Gobi race Dion endured 132 degree heat and turned back to assist another racer who had gone down in the extreme heat. Ultra Marathon is truly an extreme sport. But these people choose to do it and force themselves on. Horses, in certain regions of the world, do not choose to do it and are forced by humans to keep going.

So what has this got to do with Endurance? Well, all those riders, who ride in a certain region of the world, and are well used to deserts, should give up Endurance and take up Ultra Marathon. That way horses would be spared and those riders would have an extreme sport where they would have to find the motivation within themselves.

Just sayin’.

Endurance horses get a water break at WEG Tryon

23 Comments Add yours

  1. As an endurance rider I will throw my two cents in this matter. The American endurance organization the AERC after much debate pulled out of the FEI. There has even been talk of not letting AERC members ride in Region VII (middle East where Dubai is the worst offender due to Sheikh Mo and his love of endurance racing). The members have been howling for change at the FEI and minimal happens.

    Here is where the problems with FEI Endurance starts by there being now 2 flavors of endurance. The main endurance event would be held on natural terrain with 24 hours to finish 100 miles. This requires conditioning for heat, humidity, and the technical trail ie rocks, elevation, sand, etc.

    Flavor two is 100 miles of flat racing at top speed. This is what Region VII wants and what the FEI has been putting out as their preferred model. The AERC is against flat racing as it pushes both horse and rider to the extreme limits.

    The reason WEG was a disaster was not the heat and humidity, there was an AERC event just down the road a week or so before the WEG. The riders who rode to the technical trail with conditioning for the elements were all fine. The regions where flat racing is preferred, those horses were unable to handle both humidity and elevation. Once all Region VII horses were pulled, THEN the event was stopped even though the teams that conditioned to the course were all doing well.

    I love my sport, it normally is a very welcoming place full of very considerate riders and amazing horses. Unfortunately, the FEI decided money was more important than the very motto of endurance, “To Finish Is To Win”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this comment. You have it when you say that $ is the reason why this has not been sorted. I also think the WEG debacle was due in part to the false start and several riders guided onto the wrong course. I believe there are many Endurance riders who look after their horses very well. Thanks again for bringing your expertise and experience into this conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so welcome! The false start was a complete failure on a lot of levels. When the venue changed last minute, two AERC 100 mile courses offered their facilities for WEG. The powers that be at WEG declined, the WEG even declined the AERC logistics help. The failures at WEG really put our sport in a seriously bad light and the catalyst for the AERC to pull out of the FEI.

        Will this change anything? I truthfully not sure, the debate still rages on whether pulling out was the correct thing, or staying in and trying to keep pushing for the return of “technical” riding over flat racing or making two divisions, the technical vs flat.

        Thank you for this blog and helping the horse.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. anne leueen says:

          I was in the media center at WEG when the Endurance got cancelled as I had media accreditation. The police had to be called in as some of the Endurance competitors were very upset and apparently some shots were fired! It was not riders from the US or Canada that caused the disturbance. There was a special press conference held about the cancelling of Endurance but as I was covering the dressage I did not attend that. Sad to think there were other venues and logistics offered and turned down.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The French and Spanish riders were LIVID as a) they had all their horses still on course and b) Spain was sitting in first place with 3 riders in the top 10 and all doing well. These riders put so much work into acclimating them and their horses to heat and humidity plus they rode in the mountains to again, acclimate their horses to elevation. Region VII just tried to go flat out and shockingly, they all got pulled.

            Biltmore which is the gem of riding in the East was offered as well as Old Dominion aka The Beast of the East which is the “Tevis” of the east coast. None of us understood the very weak arguments for building a course at the last minute like that.

            Tevis is coming up plus the Mongolian Derby (gee wonder why the AERC sends a lot of riders yet Region VII doesn’t) is gearing up, so endurance is trying to put the spotlight back on what good riding and conditioning can do. One reason I love endurance so much is that it tests all aspects of your horsemanship. Feeding, conditioning, equipment, even shoes/boots all come into play. The AERC doesn’t even allow MSM so our drug protocol is really strict. Even the “Limited Distance” divisions of 25-35 miles is a tough test for non-Arabs (which I ride an OTSTB so that pus extra pressure on distance).

            Liked by 1 person

          2. anne leueen says:

            The Mongolian Derby! Wow! I would love to follow that. I shall Google it and see if there is a site that posts updates. I think Endurance is a true test of horsemanship. Also interesting that region VII does not send riders to Mongolia! Hmmm…… I guess they would not take up my suggestion of taking up Ultra Marathons for the riders and let the horses have a rest! Or as one comment suggested what about something like the Tour de France on a bicycle. I guess they would not like that either. Again, thank you for your knowledgeable comments on this post.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. MAP195 says:

    good one…thanks for share

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma Cownie says:

    Lots of interesting points ad comments here – Yes, Endurance should be for (daft) humans only.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I think so.It would show them what they are putting the horses through. There are Endurance riders who do give their horses respectful treatment but in one region of the world they just destroy their horses.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. saraannon says:

      For those who want to ride, I suggest a bicycle! I have been watching the Tour de France three week cycling competition. Beautiful scenery, but only about 85% of the riders finish each year. The other fifteen percent get sick, get hurt or don’t meet the time limit, which as humans, they have the right to do to themselves.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. anne leueen says:

        Yes that is a great suggestion. I watch the Tour when I’m on the treadmill at the gym and it has been brutal this year with the heat. Thanks for this comment it is a suitable alternative!

        Like

  4. saraannon says:

    I do not have the latest statistics, but the last batch indicated that 70% of all hores sent to slaughter were registered by the AQHA.
    https://saraannon.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/lies-damn-lies-statistics-and-horse-slaughter-3/
    Three year old futurities pretty much guarantee that horses will be used and abused in the name of profit. THat said, there are reining competitions that have upped the age of their ‘futurity’ prospects to 7 years old.

    And modern 100 mile endurance races are horse killers. Those interested in genuine endurance should check out Kikkuli’s principles and Frank Hopkin’s record setting long distance rides. Horse can perform amazing feats if we humans understand and work within their capacities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this comment. I agree absolutely.

      Like

  5. Compassion for all…horses and riders!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      That is how it should be. But if I am honest I have to admit I find it hard to have compassion for people who abuse animals.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Alli Farkas says:

    Wow, any horse sport is pretty much a can of worms waiting to be opened. There is money everywhere, horses pushed beyond their levels and/or endurance everywhere, drugs and other strange treatments everywhere. If the FEI is going to pick on the reiners, they might as well just disband the FEI all together because there is no area of horse sport that is untainted. And let’s not even talk about Thoroughbred racing…
    This whole FEI thing sounds a lot like throwing the baby out with the bath water. They have regulations and they can enforce them. If we’re going to continue to have horse sports, they don’t need to throw out a whole sport because of some bad actors within it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I was surprised that Reining was ejected. I think that the worst cases of abuse within FEI disciplines exist in Endurance . I agree that there are other horse sports that have abuse but they are not under the jurisdiction of the FEI. Racing and the chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede to name but two. But the FEI knows about what goes on in Endurance and has issued reprimands but little else that I am aware of. It is possible that they feel if they eject Endurance the abuse could get even worse.

      Like

  7. Jeff Rab says:

    It’s a shame that for every good thing someone will come up with a way to use, misuse or abuse it in a bad way. I’ve never heard of this before and sorry that it exists.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Unfortunately the region where the abuse exists has a great deal of wealth behind it. As with many things money talks.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. The AERC, the governing body of American endurance, denounced the FEI and split from it earlier this year. They got tired of the blatant abuse and cheating and the fact that the FEI refuses to do anything about it which makes many people wonder how much a certain region is lining the pockets of FEI. I was proud of our stance though now it leaves us powerless to demand changes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      I know it is a rock or a hard place decision for the American Endurance riders. I met members of the Canadian team when I was with the media at WEG and all Endurance riders are tarred with the same brush as region 7. I can only hope that going forward there can be some change. Thank you very much for commenting here.

      Like

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.