Showjumper Abdulla Al Marri has described the decision of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to suspend the entire Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) over horse welfare and rule infringements in endurance events as “ridiculous” and a “slap in the face” to those competing in other disciplines.
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The FEI announced last Thursday their decision in an official statement posted on their website that read: “The FEI Bureau has suspended the National Federation of the United Arab Emirates for an indeterminate period following an investigation by the FEI into major horse welfare issues and non-compliance with FEI Rules and Regulations in the discipline of Endurance.
“The Bureau, chaired by FEI President Ingmar De Vos, was unanimous in its decision.”
The suspension entails that the UAE will not be allowed to host any international equestrian meets. All UAE endurance riders are banned from international events, apart from national competitions, while Emirati riders in other disciplines may compete internationally but only under the neutral FEI flag.
Al Marri, who has represented the UAE in showjumping in countless international shows including last year’s Asian Games, finds the decision shocking and unfair to the jumping community.
“We don’t follow that sport (endurance) as much as ours to be honest. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like this before, banning an entire federation,” Al Marri told Sport360°.
FEI suspends UAE National Federation http://t.co/erX7NuqLbM Horse welfare – top priority!
— The FEI (@myfei_home) March 12, 2015
“It’s something we (showjumpers) had nothing to do with. For us, it’s just a shock.
“Why can’t I ride under my country’s flag? They should punish the person responsible. If a showjumper is accused of doping a horse, the rider is involved in it then he or she is punished. Why is that not the case this time?
“It’s ridiculous. Okay, we’re all under one federation but I think it’s drastic that [showjumpers] pay for it.”
While many showjumpers benefit from competing in a host of international shows held in the UAE as part of the Arab League, Al Marri says what hurts the most is not how this affects his calendar, but the fact that he can’t represent the UAE internationally.
“We do this for our country, and the fact that we can’t represent our own country, that’s the most painful thing. Being patriotic is very important to us, especially where we’re from, we’re very proud of where we come from.
— burghley horse (@burghley_horse) March 13, 2015
“One of the biggest steps in our sport was taken just two weeks ago when Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum won the 5* show in Ghantoot. And suddenly we get this slap in the face.”
De Vos admits the decision was drastic but that the world governing body had no choice.
“The decision to suspend a National Federation is not something that is taken lightly and we only should do this if no other remedy can be found,” De Vos said.
“Sadly, this was the only option left, but we have to take our responsibility and must never be afraid of tackling major issues head-on. Where horse welfare is concerned the FEI has to show leadership and solve problems in a structural way without making any concessions.”
No one from the EEF was available for comment, but they do have 30 days to appeal the decision.