Previous weekend has been marked with a big equestrian tournament – 3-day Endurance event “Brussels Equestrian Endurance Masters“.
This event is the official pre-ride for two Championships 2017 – European Endurance Championship and World Endurance Championship for Young Horses. Both Championships will be held the same week of August 2017 in the same place – Bois de la Cambre.
Bois de la Cambre is very nice park on the outskirts of Brussels. It is popular place of recreation for residents of Belgian capital. A picturesque pond and green lawns attract hundreds of people every day.
For three days, this park became the venue of major competition in equestrian sport.
This is first Endurance competition organized in this place of Belgium on 18-19-20 August 2016.
Well, let’s see how it meets the requirements of the horse welfare and how well it is suited for Endurance sport.
Let’s see what was inside of this event…
First of all are the stables. Stables established on an asphalt road. The OC didn’t provide the riders with special cards with the name of the horse and phone of the owner, so riders have to write it by hand on piece of paper from a notebook. It is not a level of European Championship, isn’t it?
Horses are forced to sleep on the asphalt. A thin layer of shavings is not a reliable protection from the cold asphalt at night.
The OC noted in its official booklet that grass in this park is reserved only for pedestrians, so horses may not sleep on the grass and paddocks may not be built on the grass. In Brussels, the welfare of grass is more important than the welfare of horse. Please keep this in mind, if you will come to Brussels for European Championships 2017.
Stable security raises the big questions. A very long row of boxes is difficult to control. So, you have the possibility to move the fence and to throw easily a prohibited substance in any box.
If you are in Brussels, you need to have a special cart to carry all your things (horse equipment) from your car to the allocated rest area, because cars are not allowed to drive closer for unloading. If you don’t have such cart, you need to drag all your things (saddle, shaving bags, hay bags etc.) on your shoulders. Parking lot for crew cars is located in 5-7 min walk from rest area. It means you should drag all your things during 5-7 mins. So, if you are going to Brussels, you should buy such cart in advance!
In general, placing of the main points of competition was not well thought out. So, all riders and crew members need to walk a lot!
- Distance from parking to the rest area = 5-7 min walk.
- Distance from vet gate to the rest area = 5-7 min walk (!!!)
- Distance from stables to the rest area = about 10 min walk.
- Distance from finish line to the rest area = 7-8 min walk.
- Distance from rest area to the start line = 4-5 min walk.
For example, you arrived from penultimate loop and passed the vet inspection. Now you need to spend 7 min to approach the rest area, then after short period of time you need to spend 7 min to come back to vet gate for CRI (compulsory re-inspection before the last loop) and then 7 min to go back to the rest area, and then 5 min to go from rest area to the start line.
So, your horse needs to walk after the penultimate loop and before the last loop about 25-26 min in total. Plus some time for two vet inspections (after penultimate loop and CRI). When the horse will have a rest? In fact, real rest time before the last loop is not 50 min as described in the schedule, but only 10-15 min.
After finish, you have 30 min for recovery. But in Brussels you need to spend 7-8 min to go from finish line to the rest area, and then 5-7 min to go from the rest area to the vet gate.
So, after finish you need to spend 12-15 min in total only to reach the vet gate for final vet inspection! And, incidentally, all these 12-15 min you need to go on the asphalt.
By the way, about the asphalt. Asphalt is everywhere.
- Stables are on the asphalt road.
- Rest area is on the asphalt road.
- Grooming area is on the asphalt road.
- Vet gate is on the asphalt road.
Many horses can’t pee on the asphalt. So, they can’t pee in the rest area, they can’t pee in the grooming area, and it increases the recovery time.
Horses need the rest between loops, and they spend all hold time on the asphalt. This is not good for the horse welfare.
As we remember, rest on grass is prohibited by the OC. Grass is not for horses, only for pedestrians!
Ok, go ahead and let’s look at the track.
Start track is very narrow for dozens of horses that start together in the morning.
There is crossroad with busy traffic just in 200 m after start line. After crossing the crossroad all the horses encounter two big concrete blocks right on their way.
These big dangerous obstacles are not the only obstacles in the beginning of the loop. Just after first crossroad there is another road, and after it there are other dangerous obstacles. So, it is really tough beginning of all loops. It is very dangerous in the twilight.
All the loops are located inside of Sonian Forest. In many places the forest track is very narrow and is not suitable for big number of horses. It is very difficult to make overtaking on this narrow track. Really only one horse in a row can ride in many places of the track.
Soil is very difficult, especially if it will rain. Riders are forced to ride on the pavement of the trail and watch carefully for dangerous obstacles that are not marked.
Finish track consists of rocky ground and isn’t very wide for simultaneous finish of several horses.
Track for intermediate finish is located in another place. Organizers prohibited the gallop on this finish track, because what they called “intermediate finish track” is just ordinary roadside in a bad condition with hollows, stones, hatchway. Definitely, it is NOT the level of European Championships 2017!
Competition was not over yet, but this “intermediate finish track” was occupied by walking people and cyclists with babies. All mixed up here: people, horses, bicycles, babies. Priority in this beautiful park is for resting people, not for horses!
Without a doubt, Bois de la Cambre is a very nice place for family holiday. But it is not suitable for equestrian competitions.
Organizers made a great job. They created a spectacular event for spectators, without a doubt.
But in the pursuit of spectacular event, organizers forgot that it is a competition, not a zoo.
Horses need rest, not an intrusive crowd. Rest area was very noisy, it was difficult for horses to relax (on the asphalt, of course).
If you see the results of Brussels CEIO 3* 160, there is a large percentage of eliminations: 62.79% or 27 eliminated of 43 started.
Well, this is Brussels Endurance.
Would you like to come here for European Championships 2017?
Whether the welfare of your horse will be kept here?
A picture is worth a thousand words, so please see the special video from Brussels:
On Saturday 20 August 2016 the competition CEI 2* 120 km was held.
Four water points were intended on first loop of 40 km, and three water points were intended on second loop of 30 km.
In fact, there was only one water point on first loop, and that’s all.
There were NO WATER BARRELS during almost whole first loop and NO WATER BARRELS during all 30 kms on second loop.
Organizers, when asked at 3 PM about water, replied that water barrels were stolen the night before. The OC learned about it at 7 AM and did nothing all the day (!?).
See the full length unedited video shot by GoPro cam of one rider. How many water points did you see during this loop?
FEI Endurance Rules, Art. 807.6.2: Combinations must have access to water on course at least every 10 kms.
The video above shows irrefutable proof that FEI Endurance rule was violated during this competition.
Will the FEI disregard this blatant violation of its own rules, directly relating the horse welfare, and shut its eyes to this issue?
Will the FEI think that this location with 100% asphalt in the rest area, vet gate and in the stables is still suitable for European Championships 2017?
And, finally, after last day of the event, when 120 km ride was held, organisers asked all riders to leave the stables at 10 AM next morning.
Because, again, this beautiful park should be cleared for people – it is written in the official booklet!
No rest for horses in Brussels!