Dear QERA members,
Recently, as no doubt you are all aware, horse welfare abuses have again come to light via disturbing video images from a recent ride in the Middle East.
As always these bring about much comment on social media. It should be known that the AERA and division bodies keep an eye on these matters and act in an official capacity where appropriate on the members behalf. The AERA communicated its concerns with the FEI directly. Division delegates have been involved in this discussion. I trust that most of you have seen the AERA’s communication to the FEI.
A conference took place with all presidents of Australian division associations and members of the EA endurance committee on the 12th of Feb. This conference was set up to open a dialogue between the parties that represent endurance in Australia and to offer some support and suggestions to add to measures the FEI has introduced to address horse welfare issues in global endurance.
Whilst we appreciate that this becomes an emotional issue, emotional argument was not the aim of the conference. There is little doubt that the rules of international endurance competition are being ignored in many circumstances and the FEI still has much work to do to see horse welfare standards reach their highest levels world wide.
I feel that we as QERA and for that matter AERA, can not be guided by or coerced into any decision making or editing of communications with international governing bodies by commercial or individual financial interests. We are a non for profit organisation that represents the sport at its grass roots level and horse welfare must at all times be our number one priority here and abroad. Nothing should stand in the way of this.
We have a responsibility to facilitate endurance riding of all levels in Australia. We are chartered with allowing the membership to fulfill their goals whether they be getting around a 20k or competing at an international level. It is important that international competition be based on a fair, level playing field that follows the rules and regulations of the FEI.
Recently some rule changes have come about at one venue in the UAE that has seen a major shift towards a more sustainable sport for the horse. I think we all feel that this is a big step in the right direction and we hope that it can be a stepping stone to create further change internationally.
The issues are very complicated. There is no easy fix. The outcomes of the conference were based around a want by Australia to see the current rules actively enforced and for some more rule changes to take place to limit speeds, reduce outside assistance and place the focus on the sustainable management of horses over long distance. The “winner takes all” ethos is not an ideal we in Australia wish to strive for. Ego over good horsemanship is not only disturbing to watch but at it’s base level it is a major character flaw.
It should also be noted that the sport depicted in some videos circulating the internet is a far cry from what we as the overwhelming majority practise in Australia. We encourage here a style of endurance riding that requires a respect between horse and rider. Riding to the conditions and riding within the horses limits are of the utmost importance. Images reflecting otherwise tarnish our sport at a national and international level.
QERA’s voice in the scheme of things is small. To make our voice stronger we have the AERA and the EA. Communication between these bodies shall continue when necessary and any outcomes shall be distributed among members. We must here in Australia always strive to uphold the best horsemanship ideals and provide the best horse welfare system we can. Our system should always be under review and improvement should always be sought so we can try to lead by example.
We must also be a part of the larger conversation on the direction endurance takes internationally with the primary objective always being the welfare of the horse.
We have a duty to the horses we breed and ride to ensure that their welfare is the first consideration.