Saturday, January 11, 2014

AERC-I Responds to AERC Sponsorship Committee Motion Proposal

AERC-I Responds to AERC Sponsorship Committee Motion Proposal

January 11 2014

AERC-I is the AERC liaison in the USA for FEI International Equine Endurance Rides. The group has responded to the AERC Sponsorship Committee's motion which proposes temporary suspension of concurrent FEI events with AERC rides.

This is continued fallout from the FEI Endurance Controversy and doping scandal that began last summer with the illegal seizure of "thousands of pounds" of illegal equine drugs seized from a private plane, and a subsequent raid of illegal veterinary drugs from Shaikh Mohammed's endurance Moorley Farm East in Newmarket, and the consequent exposure of endurance horse doping positives and deaths, particularly in the FEI Group VII are (which includes the Middle East and North Africa).

A complete history of the scandal can be reviewed here:

Following is AERC-I's response to the AERC Sponsorship Committee Motion Proposal: (link here; letter is printed below)

AERC-I Response to Sponsorship Committee Motion Proposal

The International Committee of AERC vehemently opposes the Sponsorship Committee Motion Proposal to temporarily suspend sanctioning of FEI events, effective July 1, 2014.

Approval of this motion proposal would be a counter-productive method to effect the changes desired by AERC. A much better solution is for AERC to remain in its current active and positive role and thus retain its voice and strength to help direct the changes that will be made within FEI.

Approval of the motion would, in the first place, not effect the desired changes, and in the second place, have unintended negative consequences for AERC, all the while doing absolutely nothing to promote global horse welfare.

1. Approval of this motion would in no way effect changes desired within FEI.

• The US does not hold leverage over FEI, and US withdrawal from the FEI Endurance arena will not have the effect of coercing any action for positive change

• Withdrawal of the US from FEI will in fact destroy our credibility and our voice within International endurance. We currently have some of the most experienced and respected individuals we have ever had within our FEI framework, and we are poised to be able to have some actual, very positive, influence within the organization. Our current committee members, leaders, and our Chef d’Equipe will work with those representatives from other countries with similar opinions to our own, and our united voices will be heard within FEI. Withdrawal will take away our right to have a voice, our ability to be heard within the FEI arena, and will completely strip us of any ability to effect positive changes. It will also cause us to abandon our allies from other countries, thus weakening all of our collective voices.

• There is much concern over public perception and a negative image for the sport of endurance. This seems to be the major impetus driving the current controversy and motion proposal to separate AERC from FEI. The fact is that such a separation will NOT change any public perception. The supposed bad name of endurance will be out there, and the public will not make any distinction between AERC Endurance and FEI Endurance. The public will only see a negative perception. Therefore, and this is a very important point, the best way out of this maze for AERC is not to abandon the cause, but to stay in the fight, and to be a part of making the change from negative to positive public image! The same is true for actual horse welfare, above and beyond the public perception issue. Only by retaining a right to be heard and a right to shape the future of all Endurance around the world, can we genuinely say that we are horse welfare advocates.

• Radical activist groups will attack at their own whim, regardless of whether or not AERC is affiliated with FEI. If we divide ourselves, we stand ready to fall. United, we will prevail.

2. Approval of this motion would have unintended detrimental consequences for AERC.

• 100 mile rides: International member may only be 7% of the AERC membership population, but they are directly responsible for 42% of the 100 mile rides. At one time in AERC history, any ride shorter than 100 miles was not considered to be “endurance.” In this day and age, we are long removed from that sentiment, but there are some who still hold the opinion that the 100 mile ride is the Crown Jewel of our sport, and should be regarded as something worth preserving. Of the 14 100 mile rides on the US AERC calendar at the time of this writing, seven are dual-sanctioned with FEI. Of those seven rides, only one would exist without the dual-sanctioning. Most of these seven rides would never have been started without FEI, in the first place, and most of them would be in jeopardy without the FEI sanctioning, increased numbers of entries, and personnel support system that comes with FEI sanctioning. Of the ones in jeopardy, two are so dependent upon FEI riders for numbers of entries, the entire ride, all distances, would likely cease to exist. These two rides are the historic Biltmore ride, as well as the Pioneer ride FITS. Riders of all levels, not just those interested in International, will be negatively affected by the loss of FEI sanctioning. LD riders, 50 mile riders, and pioneer riders need to recognize how unalterably interwoven are all of our interests in this issue. Loss of FEI sanctioning would not just do away with half of our 100 mile rides, but would cause the loss of other distances available for everyone, as well.

• Financial impact: see above for loss of ride entries/per-rider fees/ride sanctioning fees. In addition, there would be a reduction of 75 mile rides, as the FEI star rating system has necessitated a resurgence of this intermediate distance.

• Unknown impact for insurance and drug testing programs, associated with USEF.

• Legal impact: AERC would not be upholding its affiliate responsibilities for USEF. In addition, AERC may be on rather murky legal grounds if they attempt to rescind ride sanctioning without good cause.

• Junior/Young Riders: International is a huge supporter of our youth riders. There is unprecedented financial and educational support and encouragement available for AERC youth riders within the FEI arena. Our Juniors and Young Riders have had opportunities to travel and compete in foreign countries, as well as to experience a higher level of championship competition on our own turf. FEI supports competitions exclusively for Juniors and Young Riders, and gives them their own level playing field, thus encouraging them to rise to better levels of global humanitarian perspectives, overall horsemanship and sportsmanship, and insightful personal achievement.

The AERC International Committee agrees that action must be taken to clean up the FEI house. This is not the issue in question. The contention lies with the method to be employed. Attempting to strong-arm the FEI by threatening our withdrawal if our criteria are not met is NOT the answer. Educating our membership as to the actual issues and supporting our very fine members who are in the debate representing us IS the answer. The Committee has much confidence in our representatives and in their abilities to work with representatives from other nations with similar strong ethics and beliefs to effect definite, positive, and timely change within FEI. Furthermore, USEF has such high regard for our representatives and their credentials, that Valerie Kanavy was just elected to the USEF Board of Directors representing the Non-Olympic disciplines, and Joe Mattingley was elected as the Chairperson of the International Disciplines Council.

The AERC International Committee feels very strongly that any careful consideration of the true issues at hand cannot lead to any conclusion other than that we and the horses and the sport we wish to honor and protect will be best served by putting forth a united voice. The consequences of division would be far-reaching, unforeseeable in totality, and potentially extremely damaging. The impetus for change within the FEI governing structure has reached a point of inevitability, and the opportunity for AERC to be an integral part of that change should be enthusiastically cultivated.

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