January 3 2018
AERC President M Paul Latiolais has written a letter on behalf of the AERC board and members to Will Connell, USEF director of sport programs, regarding the continued abuse of horses in some Group VII competitions. You are invited to read and send your own letters to Mr. Connell at the address on the letter below.
December 29, 2017
Mr. Will Connell, Director of Sport Programs
United States Equestrian Federation
P.O. Box 83, Gladstone, NJ 07934-2053
Dear Mr. Connell,
I am writing on behalf of the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) members and Board of Directors to request that the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) register to the Federation Equestrian Internationale our disappointment, outrage and protest at the continued abuse of horses owned by certain stables in Group VII nations.
Social media around the world has circulated details of more than eight equine fatalities at the Dubai and Al Wathba venues sustained in just the first five weeks this season, each due to Catastrophic Injury. A dozen similar deaths occurred at these same two venues the previous seasons.
These catastrophic injuries and obvious lack of concern of the violating parties is now a very serious liability not only for the sport of endurance, but for all equestrian sports worldwide. Various animal rights groups are getting stronger every year, and these deaths are adding fuel to their fire. If the FEI is not implementing drastic measures now to curtail these disasters occurring in Group VII, the equestrian sports worldwide will be jeopardized. Even the Olympic Equestrian Disciplines won’t get spared from the backlash these irresponsible actions of some in Group VII are exposing all of us to.
We are concerned that the sanctions imposed by the FEI and the recent FEI rule changes are not having sufficient effect on the issues at hand. We are deeply troubled that the risk of leg fractures at Group VII endurance events is similar to that documented in flat-track racing. That being said, we see a bright light in the Bouthieb Initiative set out by Sheik Sultan. This format is showing promise with a definite decrease in the number of fatalities at this venue.
We would like to propose some changes that we feel would help promote horse welfare for the sport of endurance.
• The requirement of the “set speed” Certificate of Capability (COC) needs to be abandoned. Unfortunately, the current format for the COC has forced organizing committees worldwide to create faster, flatter courses to make it easier for horses and riders to qualify. This has promoted faster and faster winning times and ultimately has caused horse welfare issues. We feel that the COC is outdated and unnecessary.
• There should be a balance between winning and finishing endurance events. We suggest that both horses and riders need to maintain a 66.6% completion rate (finish two out of three attempts).
• There should be an increase in the number of events that horses and riders need to complete before they are allowed to promote to the next level. Horses and riders would need to complete three 1* events prior to being allowed to compete in a 2*, complete two 2* events prior to being allowed to compete in a 3*, and complete two 3* events prior to being allowed to compete in a 4* event. The 66.6% completion rate needs to extend through these additional requirements.
• If a horse or rider falls below the 66.6%, they would have 24 months to raise their “score” or they would lose the level that they are qualified for.
• When a rider is suspended, especially for a drug violation, the trainer should also receive a suspension – a suspension that would not allow them to train any of the horses listed under them for the period of the suspension.
As the recognized endurance affiliate in the U.S., the AERC not only asks USEF representatives to register our ongoing concerns with the FEI, but join with the AERC in celebrating sustained equine performance and multi-year completion records as well as individual victories. By bestowing such awards such as the AERC’s Decade Team Award (based on equine and rider teams who have completed at least one 50-mile endurance ride or more each year for 10 years), USEF can help demonstrate that long-term health and active careers for competition horses is attainable, regardless of the specific sport.
With USEF’s support, we believe it is possible for the 2018 WEG to not only remain fatality free, but also be remembered as a celebration of the horse-human bond.
We would greatly appreciate USEF’s support in joining us and forwarding our concerns about the issues we are unfortunately still seeing in Group VII. With the 2018 WEG being on U.S. soil, we hope that we will all be able to remember it as a celebration of the horse-human bond, not as something that will taint all of equestrian sport.
Paul Latiolais, President
American Endurance Ride Conference