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New rules help promote horse wellbeing in Abu Dhabi endurance races

His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been in discussion with a number of people and bodies concerning the welfare of endurance horses and how to bring back respect for the horse and skill of the rider in successfully completing endurance competitions.

It is the considered opinion of HH Sheikh Sultan that speeds now reached in local endurance rides have exceeded the natural capacity of the average Arabian horse and that allowing speed, and therefore the culture of First past the post as the sole winning factor, has led to many problems. Consequently, in Boudhieb Endurance Village, run under the banner of Emirates Heritage Club, a number of new rules now being tested will apply for the remaining races of the season. These are designed to slow the speeds and make riders more responsible for how they ride and present and care for their horses in the races.

Chiefly they are as follows:

  • All CEI and CEN rides will have a presentation time of 10 mins at each vet gate
  • Maximum heart rate in all rides will be 56bpm
  • All CEN’s will have a maximum average speed per loop of 20kph
  • No cars are allowed on the track-sides, except the official car of a team or trainer, and as trainers are now limited to 5 horses per race this means 1 car per trainer with a maximum of three people per car.
  • Crewing at fixed water points only which are at every kilometer
  • Infringement of the rules means disqualification
  • In order to comply with FEI rules the winner of the CEI rides will remain the First past the post, however in each of these rides the major awards will be presented to horses and riders meeting the Top Condition Challenge with criteria broadly based around the FEI best conditioned awards.

It is HH Sheikh Sultan’s hope that the FEI will take notice of these rule changes and consider how these competitions, with limitations of speed, can become officially sanctioned into the FEI rule book. His Highness is working closely with the UAE Federation and representatives of the FEI to return endurance to its origins of a respectful partnership between horse and man, and to keep in mind to finish is to win!
The rules are, needless to say, a work in progress and we would like to open a dialogue on their concept, but already with two rides in Boudhieb Village using preliminary versions of these rules, dramatic changes have been seen in both events with completion rates in excess of 67% and minimal cases receiving treatment, none of which were serious.

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