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.
Zedan Polo Team beat Bin Drai 9-7 to ride off with the 2015 Julius Bär Gold Cup yesterday. Patron Amr Zedan’s team won the most important trophy of the season for the first time.
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With superstar Pablo MacDonough, MVP of the final, and Martin Gandara and Facundo Fernandez Llorete, patron Amr Zedan put together a very competitive team to defeat a tough opponent like Bin Drai in the decisive match of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series 2015.
In a very tight final, the talent of MacDonough was the big difference between the two teams. Pablo, two times triple crown champion with La Dolfina, decided the game in favour of Zedan in the last minute of the game with two late goals.
His mare, Irenita Pimienta from the Argentinian Polo Breeders Association, was the best playing pony while Veronica from Bin Drai Polo Team with Manolo Fernandez Llorente in the saddle, was also awarded by the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi won the Bentley Cup after defeating Mahra Polo 7-5 in another tough final on a very busy day at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club. Abu Dhabi patron Faris Al Yabhouni was named the best amateur of the final.
Al Asayl-based trainer Salem Al Ketbi will be hoping for a big weekend as both Sharjah today and Abu Dhabi tomorrow host their final meetings of the season.
Abhaar, under Tadhg O’Shea, is the one to watch today as he faces eight rivals in the Dh125,000 Ruler of Sharjah Trophy, a 1,700m Prestige conditions event.
Today’s task represents a drop in class and with the extra 100m likely to suit, the only concern could be the dirt surface as he has only raced on turf to date.
That said, he could struggle on the surface and still outclass these rivals – just as Godolphin’s African Story appeared to do at Meydan last Saturday. It is hard to visualise defeat but should he struggle Ahmadani and Meftah Al Reef have both won on the track, albeit over 1,200m.
The 2,700m Sharjah Marathon is the main support race and 12 are set to face the starter, including last year’s winner Swyft, one of three in the race for Al Ketbi, as well as the 2011 winner, Fantastique MHF.
Meanwhile, at Al Ain yesterday, three went to post for the featured 1,600m conditions contest with Wayne Smith and Manade Athbah prevailing for trainer Eric Lemartinel.
Smith was content to take his time in third behind the early speed set by her stable companion Thaaniya, with Namrood seemingly travelling best of all in second.
Namrood led halfway up the straight but Smith was easing his mount closer all the time before asking her for what proved a telling challenge. She quickened and was well in control at the line.
The meeting opened with a 2,000m maiden, won comfortably by RB Rich Surprise for Al Ketbi and O’Shea. Connections completed a double when Afaal won a 1,600m handicap.
The second maiden on the card, over 1,400m, went the way of the same team with debutante RB Rich Abratude belying her inexperience to make a winning start to her career.