Saturday, January 04, 2014

US National Endurance Organization Feels the Heat

January 4 2013

by Merri Melde -

The FEI Endurance Controversy regarding positive horse dopings and deaths which caused a world-wide uproar beginning in the summer of 2013, is trickling down to the foundations of the sport, which originated in the USA in 1955 with the birth of the 100-mile Tevis Cup in California.

The raging international controversy has inspired much consternation and reform demands by many nations outside the FEI Group VII area (which includes the Middle East and North Africa), from where most of the violations have originated.

Due to the public outcry, an Endurance Strategic Planning Group was formed to meet during the November 2013 FEI General Assembly in Montreux, Switzerland. This group set forth proposals designed to address the contentious issues in international Endurance, particularly the incidences of doping and injuries, and misconduct of officials.

While it is a step in the right direction, many feel the FEI is moving far too slowly in dealing with the crises, and repercussions may spill out into non-FEI-related endurance riding.

In the USA, the AERC - American Endurance Ride Conference - is currently recognized as the "affiliated endurance organization" by USEF - United States Equestrian Federation, the USA Federation member of FEI. AERC is to encourage and promote the direction of growth of the endurance discipline.

AERC and its members have been swept up into the FEI debate, worrying that the current state of the FEI sport of endurance racing has tainted the original idea of the sport of endurance riding, and will negatively affect its existence in the USA.

AERC was founded in 1972 "as the national governing body for long distance riding. Over the years it has developed a set of rules and guidelines designed to provide a standardized format and strict veterinary controls." Part of AERC's mission statement is to "attract and reward members who act to insure the highest priority for their horses' immediate and long-term physical and emotional health and well-being." Many feel FEI endurance racing has become the antithesis of this mission statement.

While all of AERC members who have voiced opinions agree that the FEI rule infractions are wrong and unacceptable, they are divided on whether or not AERC should completely divorce itself from FEI, or to try to use its influence and its reputation as promoting endurance horse welfare to improve the situation. Only about 6.3% of the AERC membership are also FEI members.

While members on one side of the debate insist that AERC can have a good influence on FEI, members on the other end of the spectrum argue that AERC never has and never will have any influence on FEI, and that the bad press, the breaking of and blatant disregard for FEI rules in Middle Eastern countries, and the drugging and deaths of endurance horses will blanket the AERC organization in America and paint them with the same brush.

AERC originally responded to the FEI Endurance controversy with a letter to USEF in June of 2012, voicing strong alarm "in regard to profoundly disturbing evidence of deficiencies in horse welfare issues, including an increase in equine fatalities, orthopedic injuries and serious drug violations." The letter urged USEF to submit a letter to FEI regarding these concerns.

AERC followed up with recommendations to ESPG's proposals on December 19, 2013, including demanding FEI's commitment to change, transparency of equine fatalities, major penalties for rule-breakers, extensive drug testing at major competitions, limited competitors per team, and disciplinary action for rule infractions.

The AERC Sponsorship Committee, chaired by AERC Board Member Randy Eiland, has now offered a motion for discussion, which proposes temporary suspension of concurrent FEI events with AERC rides. In part, it states: "If FEI has not incorporated enforcement of the policies approved by AERC in its December, 2013 Letter to FEI, on or before June 30, 2014 then on July 1, 2014 AERC will decline sanctioning of rides that intend to hold an FEI event concurrently with the AERC event.  This action by AERC will be rescinded when either 1) FEI accepts and begins enforcement of the policies found in Exhibit “A”; or 2) FEI begins enforcement of policies that are acceptable to AERC. "

The complete proposal can be seen here:

A complete recap of the news regarding the FEI Endurance Controversy over the last year can be seen here:

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