More Voices Speak Out After WEG Endurance Fiasco

Jean-Phillipe Francis on course in tryon
Credit : Scoopdyga

Friday 14 September - 11h13 | Yeelen Ravier and Lulu Kyriacou

More Voices Speak Out After WEG Endurance Fiasco

In the wake of the fiasco at the World Equestrian Games Endurance by the  on Wednesday, more voices are speaking out on the subject and hopefully leading to positive change for the sport.  Grand Prix talks to one  and reports on a second, both aiming for positive change in the sport they love.

Nicolas Wahlen, President of the Alliance of Endurance Organizers

Nicolas Wahlen was in office during the Normandy Games four years ago in particular and does not budge from his position: there will be a before and after Tryon for the discipline he adores.
GrandPrix-Replay: What is your assessment of these World Endurance Championships, which you have experienced from a distance?
Nicolas Wahren: It was a surreal situation. I followed the race on the screens, and it was very addictive. In thirty years of my career, I have never seen that! What happened was the factor of several causes. The organization in the first place, and the technical delegate did not have to do his job perfectly. I saw a lot of things in all the events where I officiated, but never such as this! How could they organize a race in these conditions? It's a crazy world ... I do not necessarily want to throw stone at the organization, but it's a fact.

Then the jury and the officials gave two starts; it seems unlikely! The President of the jury is supposed to be on the starting line! The stewards, for abstract reasons, have asked some competitors to leave on the left and others on the right ... As for the problems of markup during the first loop, it is true that in the United States, the races of endurance run less quickly, so the arrows can often be less well positioned. Afterall, I was not there, but that's what I saw on the pictures. From the moment you give two different starts, there is no longer any possibility of equality of chances.

And finally, there are always these conflicts of interest between the international bodies and the partners ... Seeing that Meydan, with whom I have good relations since I worked for a long time with them, was sponsor of the championship ' was shocking. At the 2014 World Equestrian Games, it was totally forbidden. The FEI had told us that it was impossible for an FEI championship to be owned by a brand, precisely to avoid political and financial conflicts of interest ...

GPR: To return to the beginning of the race, which was interrupted because of signaling defects; is there not a check of the race course beforehand?
N.W .: From what has been said, the teams could not access the track for reconnaissance, but I was not there so I do not know. What is certain is that every endurance race, riders normally have the right to walk the last loop the day before. And at the opening of the race the same day, there are always one or two vehicles, one departing five minutes before the start to check the markup, and the other at the same time as the horses. We do not know what it was.

GPR: A number of commentators have argued that the race could have been cancelled because officials were under pressure from Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates, which no longer had a single representative halfway through the race. What do you think ?
N.W .: I do not think that's the case. But I would have liked to be a little mouse to know what really happened! Once again, everything is history of politics and finance. What is certain is that these riders want to take the lead in endurance. They show it very clearly for several years by organizing a large number of competitions. Let's not forget, however, that many people are living off these financings. Criticism is easy ...

GPR: This catastrophic scenario has once again tainted the reputation of endurance ...
N.W .: There has been the sword of damocles over endurance for some time, which is the well-being of the horses. We are going to enter into very complex considerations because today, our sport is difficult to practice because of the publicity that we make of it. To gallop a horse on 160km becomes difficult, and to go to the end will today become exceptional. For me, there will be a before and after Tryon. Some will take advantage of the situation to argue what they believe is good. There are several chapels in the world of endurance, you have to be honest! And one is not to blame more than the other. What happened to Tryon was inevitable, because not all riders practice the same sport. It is the result of full compromise. What is amazing is that we have repeatedly proposed endurance reforms through the Alliance of Endurance Organizers, to create two separate races for example. All of this is constantly being swept by the FEI for a lot of reasons. We have the impression that there is no listening possible. What image are we going to give this discipline ... I think this event will kick in the anthill, so it's almost a bad thing for a good. It would be normal for there to be a high-level resignation for example. But all of this will significantly reduce our credibility as a sport.  

Meanwhile In Tryon, A Meeting Was Held.....

Meanwhile In Tryon, A Meeting Was Held..... - More Voices Speak Out After WEG Endurance Fiasco

Tarek Taher on course at Tryon

Back in Tryon, despite announcing that they would do so, the organisers and International Equestrian Federation (FEI) twice cancelled a press conference to explain and possibly, apologise for, the events of Wednesday 12th September.  But one rider decided to do something positive before all his fellow competitors departed the venue.

​Tarek Taher,  who represents Saudi Arabia, called a meeting at the venue to discuss the way forward for the sport and it was attended by around 50 riders, grooms, officials and other interested parties.  On his Facebook page  he said, " I am happy to report that we had a successful productive meeting, around 50 people attended including riders, Vets, Chef d’ equips and grooms, it was a positive meeting, two of the most important issues discussed are creating a riders association and creating a riders letter to the FEI outlining what changes we would like to see in order to move forward on an equitable platform based on discussion and dialogue with FEI. My intention is work with the FEI not against them. Lets stay positive, lets work together, endurance is our sport lets keep it true together."

​There is not currently  any sort of riders group in endurance unlike in show jumping, dressage and eventing.  The jumping group, the International Jumping Riders Club,  has become a powerful voice for the sport  and generally  consulted about proposed major changes in the sport.  For example, at the 2012 London Olympics, the main arena surface was changed after the test event, when IJRC members sid it was not fit for top class showjumping.  A consultation with a few of the competitors prior to the start of Wednesdays race might have provoked a whole different outcome.


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