Emirates Equestrian Federation hosted FEI Endurance Forum held on 7-8 April in Dubai. The two-day event was focused on modifications of Endurance Rules as well as panel discussions about proposed Endurance Strategic Plan. Forum also delivered the conclusions from the 2017 Endurance Conference held in Spain, Risk Assessment from Equiratings and the Global Endurance Injury Studies from Glasgow University.
Delegates from 29 National Federations attended Endurance Forum this year. Representatives from all 6 continents gathered at the Conrad Dubai Hotel to discuss the most developing equestrian discipline.
Members of the FEI Headquarters as well as FEI Endurance Committee were represented in full.
Organizers of endurance competitions were presented by Alliance Endurance Organisers (Brussels, Belgium), HP Group (Euston Park and Windsor, UK), Sistema Eventi (Pisa, Italy), also Dubai Equestrian Club and Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club as well.
The event was moderated by Andrew Finding, who is also former Secretary General of the British Equestrian Federation retired in 2016 after a fifteen-year tenure.
First day of the Forum kicked off by welcome words of FEI President. Mr. Ingmar De Vos thanked all participants of the forum, noting a significant increase in the number of delegates this year, and expressed his hope for successful cooperation between national federations and organizers.
Dr. Ghanem Mohammed Al Hajri, the Secretary General of the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) acted as a hospitable host of the event. Under his management since 2016 the EEF has made great efforts in improving the welfare of horses in UAE, and this progress was noted by the FEI.
First session was dedicated to conclusions from Endurance Forum 2017.
Two-time world champion and current member of FEI Endurance Committee Valerie Kanavy from USA made a brief overview of the decisions taken at previous Endurance Conference held in Spain last year.
Legendary Valerie won Endurance world championships in 1994 (as part of WEG held in Netherlands) on Pieraz, and in 1998 in Abu Dhabi on High Winds Jedi. In her 70s she is still active rider competing both in FEI and national rides.
At the second session, Sam Watson and Diarmuid Byrne from EquiRatings presented their study on Risk Assessment in Endurance competitions.
EquiRatings is a global sports data and technology company for equestrian sports. This company analyses and distributes equestrian data to the biggest federations and teams around the world.
In April 2017 EquiRatings has signed a four-year agreement with the FEI to work together on risk management initiatives for both Eventing and Endurance disciplines.
The FEI and EquiRatings are collaborating on horse welfare and data analysis projects in Endurance, developing data analysis and predictive analysis tools to measure and manage risk for both human and equine athletes.
The company is focusing on the implementation of the EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI) at all level of events starting with the elite 4-star level. The ERQI index is both a powerful tool for understanding and predicting risk in both Eventing and Endurance and brings a new layer of insight into the decision-making process at a global governance level.
At the next session Dr. Euan Bennet from Glasgow University told about Global Endurance Injury Studies and factors which affect the risk of injury.
In late 2017 the FEI has extended its highly successful global equine injuries research partnership with the University of Glasgow for another two years through to 2019, to further develop the Global Endurance Injuries Study (GEIS). The extension will maximize the impact of the GEIS across Endurance and also look at the potential development of similar methodology for other FEI disciplines.
Led by Professor Tim Parkin and Dr. Euan Bennet from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow, the GEIS was set up in 2015 and is one of the largest studies of its kind. The initial aim of the study was to provide evidence-based information for regulatory changes to Endurance rides focused on minimizing the risk of equine injury.
Findings of the Endurance study to date were presented at both the FEI Sports Forum 2017 and FEI Endurance Forum 2017, with the clear message that speed and insufficient rest periods are key risk factors, highlighting that an increase of seven days on the mandatory rest periods established in 2014 could potentially prevent up to 10% of the failed-to-qualify statistics.
This scientific insight has provided a crucial basis for proposed changes to the FEI Endurance Rules, which have been presented and voted on at the FEI General Assembly in November 2017.
The extension of the study will look at the development of predictive models categorizing the highest (and lowest) risk horse starts included in the FEI’s Endurance database. Predictive models look at the modelling of populations with potential application to event management, exploring the high-level science behind the impacts of changes in weather, terrain, speeds and other factors. The study will also seek to develop a risk calculator for use by veterinary delegates to risk-assess all horses before and during rides, utilizing this scientific knowledge and learning.
Next speech was made by Mr. Göran Akerström, FEI Veterinary Director.
Göran comes from the Swedish Trotting Association, where he was Chief Veterinary Officer for five years. He has also been Head of the Equine Welfare department and a member of the Swedish Trotting Association management team, advisor to the regulatory committee and collaborated closely with the Swedish Equestrian Federation and the Swedish Jockey Club.
Mr. Akerström presented new methods for in-race testing including the usage of the prod and limb actuators. New research and development starts this year to improve recognition of the doping drugs used during Endurance rides.
At final session of Forum’s first day Mr. Brian Sheahan, Chair Endurance Committee made a presentation on Proposed Endurance Strategic Plan (PESP) and highlighted 7 points of PESP.
In the very first article of Endurance rules 800.1, the definition of Endurance Riding was clarified by adding a phrase at the end of the article “without compromising the welfare of the horse”.
Top key factors of Proposed Endurance Strategic Plan are Vision, Mission and Values.
Vision is to ensure Endurance athletes to compete, complete and win fairy while sustaining and developing the sport globally in a professionally administered way and operating within the FEI Code of Conduct for the Welfare of Horses.
Mission is to develop solutions to ensure horse welfare, a level paying field and the development of modern technology to achieve equality and integrity.
Values are Clean Sport, Welfare, Integrity and Partnership.
New SWOT Analysis in 2017 highlighted the following areas: strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats to the Endurance discipline.
Task Force Recommendations include changes in Competition Format by introducing new 5* level: a limited number of elite competitions to be organized each year open to elite Athletes and horses. Also, possible format changes for Endurance Championships by extending the event over several days were proposed.
ESPG proposed 7 recommendations, including Development of Endurance, Welfare of the horse, Horsemanship and Education, Development of the Rules, In-Competition Action, Finance and Sponsorship, Marketing and Communications.
Endurance needs to be sustainable as a sport with a high level of sportsmanship and ethics, with a strong relationship between the horse, the trainer and the athletes. It is needed to create a more supportive calendar to engage people by creating challenges and series to motivate athletes from different riding levels and different regions of the world.
Non-negotiable horse welfare standard includes the codes of practice, welfare rules, education and sanctions. It must be an ongoing process always with continued scientific research to protect and ensure the welfare of horses. Education for athletes and trainers needs to become a reality with a proper education program to develop knowledge of the Endurance rules and Clean Sport regulations.
An evaluation of the current Endurance Rules must be undertaken to identify the main problems of implementation and evaluation of competition formats vs. qualifications. The structure of the rules must become clear and easy to understand without leading to different interpretations.
The FEI started a process of the approval of timing systems and heart rate monitors to accept them in top level events, and also started a process of the establishing a protocol for using hypo sensitivity tests and EADCMP testing during the competitions.
Strategic Objectives are as follows: Endurance is the second fastest growing discipline of the FEI and it should become spectator friendly with new competition formats.
During his presentation, Mr. Sheahan compared the statistic numbers of all disciplines during WEG 2014 held in France.
Endurance competition has taken only 1 day while other disciplines were held during several days, up to 6 days for Reining and Jumping. Thus, the number of spectators for Endurance competition was drastically low at WEG in Normandy. Only 6,000 spectators attended Endurance event compared with 110,000 spectators for Jumping and 94,600 attendees for Eventing.
The second day of Endurance Forum started with panel discussion on Proposed Endurance Strategic Plan, moderated by FEI Endurance Director Mr. Manuel Bandeira De Mello.
Mr. De Mello from Portugal is working as FEI Endurance Director since December 2014. He is former Secretary General of the Portuguese Equestrian Federation, was chef d’équipe for the Portuguese team at numerous FEI championships and was also Portuguese chef de mission at three editions of the FEI World Equestrian Games.
The second part of the final day was dedicated to the Endurance rules modifications for 2019.
The main topics of proposal include weights (Art. 812), new star system for events (Art. 814), horse age and mandatory rest periods (Art. 815), as well as novice qualifications for horses (Art. 816).
Ms. Martha Misheff from FEI Veterinary Committee submitted the proposals for consideration, that include lower presentation times for elite horses as well as proposal to exclude recovery time from calculation of loop speed to give more accurate measurement.
The main goal is to allow elite horses to continue to perform at a high level without risking those horses that are unsuited and unprepared for elite competition.
Ms. Misheff’s proposals for venues with average speeds above 20 km/h are as follows:
• presentation times should be reduced to 10 minutes at vet gates and 20 minutes at finish;
• allowed speed for qualification rides should be increased from 16 to 20 km/h to establish a smooth transition from qualification rides to star races;
• if horse that already qualified for 160 km, is out of competitions for more than 1 year, it should re-qualify at 80 km ride before stepping up to the next level;
• exclude the recovery time from calculation of loop speed to give more accurate measurement of the loop speed.
Mr. Nicolas Wahlen from Alliance Endurance Organisers presented his proposals for new competition formats.
From his point of view, CEI events should be started from the distance of 100 km as symbolic number. To eliminate big gaps between distances existing at current CEI levels (i.e. 80 km – 120 km – 160 km), Mr. Wahlen suggests creating the logical progression by increasing the distance by 20 km at each level, as follows:
• CEI1* = 100 km
• CEI2* = 120 km
• CEI3* = 140 km
• CEI4* = 160 km
• And CEI5* = Championships and WEG
Endurance competitions at WEG should be conducted in 2 days: first day is team competition for 140 km, and second day is individual competition for 160 km.
Also, he proposes to establish new type of FEI events such as Nation Cup with distance of 140 or 160 km to be held by each nation once a year with classification on every step and final classification at the end of the year.
Another interesting suggestion is the implementation of different types of rides depending on the attitude differentials: from flat to mountainous.
Mr. Wahlen also raised an important question about weight, describing the current situation as “completely anarchic”: from zero weight requirement at 1* and 2* levels, riders come to 75 kg minimum weight at 3* events. He proposed to set the unified minimum weight requirement of 70 kg for senior riders at all CEI levels from 1* to 5*.
The Endurance Forum 2018 was held in a friendly atmosphere and laid the directions for the further development of Endurance discipline.