In the beginning of November, the Spanish NF sent a letter to the FEI President Ingmar De Vos, yet again raising the questions regarding the circumstances related to the conduct of Endurance championship during World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
Spaniards wanted to call the FEI President’s attention on the following subjects:
1. The situation regarding WEATHER CONDITIONS were not a new subject that appeared at that point in time.
- During the test event in April 2018 it was evident to all present that the weather conditions would be of high temperatures and high humidity.
- The layout of the course was not adapted to this knowledge of difficult conditions.
- The small percentage of participating riders that finished the course, around 30% was disregarded in the preparation for the event.
The conditions that we would be facing on the day of the Championship were clear almost a year and a half in advance, and were disregarded by most, including the FEI and the OC that had full information on the conditions to allow the Event at Tryon. If that event was not considered sufficient data, the FEI could have perfectly obtained similar data from other national Endurance events held by AERC ran in that area on previous years.
With 6 months of time to prepare for what was known, it is surprising that the TD, the OC and ultimately the FEI could not prepare for these circumstances, while our own trainers and riders spent all that time looking for the most humid and hot locations and times in their respective areas to train in the most similar conditions for the event, as is also recommended on the Sports Forum documents on page 12 and 13, where it states that it is perfectly possible to acclimate Horses for these conditions.
2. Upon arrival to THE VENUE athletes encountered big difficulties for the preparation of the race in different areas:
- The training facilities were far from suitable. They were in an area where construction was going on next to it and participants were forced to train and walk their horses in the same tight place making the situation very difficult and leading to veterinary issues affecting all countries, due to improper infrastructure to horses that require a high amount of movement as are top level Endurance horses. As a further example the vet inspection was held just meters away from construction, making the situation very uncomfortable and plainly unacceptable.
- The communication with the OC and Ground Jury was very much affected by the fact that the Jury got there two days before the race. Up until that moment there was no substantial information distributed to the teams, forcing even the Chef’s de Mission to demand the presence of the TD before his scheduled arrival.
3. During THE EVENT there where incidents that were a complete failure:
- Lack of knowledge of the course and assistance areas, even the GJ, TD and stewards did not know the course, made obvious as this led to mistakes that required a race stop for a long period of time. The collateral consequences of the stop were not carefully taken into consideration, or at least not communicated properly to the teams.
- The course was deemed dangerous to ride at the least dangerous moment. The riders considered that when the race was cancelled the rideability of the course was still acceptable and further proven by arrival of first horses which passed the Veterinary checks with no issues.
The OC has failed in the organization of the discipline and the FEI has failed in the proper follow up of the organization of the Endurance event as it is it’s duty. There were a lot of functional problems not identified or not communicated to the stakeholders that led to a terrible outcome.
In consequence, besides the personal damages to the athletes participating on the Event, our National Federation has been financially damaged by the lack proper handling of the Event, both during preparation and during competition.
On the one hand, we have not seen any measures taken against the people responsible for the failure of the Endurance in Tryon and to prevent the same happening in the future, but on the other we have been shocked by the fact of the proposed suspension of the Vice Deputy of the recently deposed Endurance Committee, Ignasi Casas, when the investigation led by Quest is still ongoing and no conclusions (previous at least) have been released yet. We also cannot understand why a suspension of two years is proposed.
In conclusion, because of all the previous circumstances Spanish NF has to request:
- All responsibilities for all failures are documented and responsible people are made accountable for them.
- The Endurance Committee be reinstated in its functions.
- The reimbursement of the costs incurred by Spanish NF to attend the WEG in Tryon with Spanish Endurance Team.
The Endurance complete disfunction demonstrated in Tryon, has opened a reflection time we must take a deep look to the discipline considering all the real problems that we have, and openly analyze them, proposing solutions that will be on the benefit of the sport.
Spanish NF, as one of the important countries in the Endurance world, is more than open to contribute to this real process.
A week later the answer came from the FEI.
A letter signed not by FEI President, but FEI Legal Director Mikael Rentsch contained the following answer to Spanish NF:
Regarding your criticism of the conditions and facilities, we do not dispute that there were many logistical challenges concerning the WEG 2018 Endurance competition. For its part, the FEI made huge efforts to ensure that the competition did go ahead and we were as disappointed as everyone else that it was ultimately necessary to cancel it mid-race. We are, of course, all aware of the regrettable incident that occurred at the start of the race. As widely communicated at the time, the FEI has asked the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit, who were present on-site, to carry out a full investigation into the circumstances that gave rise to this incident.
Your claim that the conditions that athletes and horses would face on the day of the Championships were “disregarded” by the FEI and the OC is simply wrong. Before the Games were allocated to Tryon, the FEI gathered data over a three-year period on the meteorological patterns in the region. Data analysis was also conducted in the two years since the allocation, giving a total of five years of data. This data, together with information obtained from the onsite weather station at the venue and expert advice from Dr David Marlin, formed the basis of the decision to cancel.
“The extreme weather conditions on that day, which lead to the cancellation of the Endurance competition, were a “Force Majeure” event and, consequently, your claim for your National Federation to be reimbursed is not admissible.”
We have taken note of your comments and the comments of the Spanish Endurance athletes regarding Mr Casas. As you are aware, disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against him. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for the FEI to make any comment or remarks concerning Mr Casas as this point, other than to say he will be afforded a full right to be heard as part of the disciplinary process. Any additional disciplinary actions against other individuals involved in alleged wrongdoing at Tryon will be announced in due course.
Finally, regarding your comments about the future of the discipline of Endurance, as you may have seen, the FEI has established a Temporary Committee, to be chaired by Dr Sarah Coombs (GBR), with a remit to urgently assess the issues currently affecting the sport of Endurance and carry out an in-depth review of the rules in order to identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its original roots of Endurance riding as opposed to Endurance racing, with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core, while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the sport.
From the above-mentioned answer, it’s clear that FEI in no way see their share of responsibility for the failure of the Endurance event in Tryon.
For the FEI, the organisers are to blame for the unpreparedness of the venue; the athletes are to blame for their desire to reach the finish line; Spanish chef d’equipe (and maybe there will be other persons) is to blame for not holding back his emotions; the FEI are not to blame at all.
Tryon photos courtesy of Andre Vidiz