Just tears…right where endurance began!
Sport Endurance Evo (web and printed edition) has been working with and for
endurance riding, for 15 years.
We have seen all sorts of things in this long period of time but we would never have
imagined to witness such a tragicomic show in Tryon, during the WEG. Our
beautiful sport has been mocked and torn into pieces by today’s social media and
by other equestrian disciplines too.
I myself was in North Carolina and starting from 6 in the morning I’ve seen all that
has happened, minute after minute.
10 AM – Vet check is in two days – Tryon looks like a construction site, heavy
equipment vehicles are everywhere, it is even dangerous to simply walk in the WEG
Village. There is no trace of the Endurance Area and Sh. Mohammed’s palace is
7 PM – Vet check is scheduled for tomorrow. Where are the trotting areas? Where
is the cooling area? They are not ready yet…still under construction!
2 PM – We are almost there…vet check is in an hour. Nobody has access to the the
gate yet, nobody can put some water in the buckets…it’s a total desolation!
There is a continuous noise and a lot of smog…100% air humidity, it’s boiling hot
and Florence, the hurricane, is on its way!
6.15 AM – The ride begins. We are almost ready…30 or 50 horses start following
two quad-bikes that lead the way in the dark (the video has already been posted on
Facebook and viewed by 7000 people).
I had been walking fast for more than 15 minutes with hundreds of people and
horses, trying to avoid the holes on the ground and being careful not to get run over
by all those horses.
Yari Perrotti, sports trainer of the Italian National Team, was walking by my side,
believe me… it was hard to keep pace with him although I consider myself a good
This is just to emphasize the fact that we were walking really fast, sometimes we
were running, looking for some sort of starting line.
Suddenly, at some point, we realized we were exactly where we had started
walking! We had all been walking in a ghost loop while others, probably luckier than
us, had been guided towards the right direction by a man dressed in yellow. What
happened? Two different groups headed off for the first loop with a 20 / 25 minute
gap from each other.
What’s most incredible is that at the first crew point we realized that there were two
crew points, two different lines: a sort of fast-line dedicated to those not interested
in wasting time over silly things like wetting the horse or offering him water to drink.
The other line was meant for those who know well that you must always give your
horse the chance to rest and drink some water even if he doesn’t want any.
By the way…the chef d’equife didn’t have a car or a pass at his disposal, so he
could only hop from one car to the other in order to follow all the horses.
The leading rider was the Crown Prince of Dubai, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin
Mohammed Al Maktoum guided by Juma Punti and his wife Maria etc. After a few
minutes Alex Luque Moral and Jean Philippe Frances showed up too and behind
them other binomials (probably the ones who were lucky enough to choose the right
track from the start!).
The first news came as a wet blanket at the first vet check: the ride was going to be
suspended due to obvious irregularities. Redo or cancel it: that is the question.
Judges, presidents and presumed scientists launched an animated debate and
decided to start all over again.
After 45 minutes from the last finisher of the first loop, the ride started again over a
120 km distance.
This is exactly when the total chaos began. The 29 participating teams gathered in
two different formations: pro and against the cancellation of the ride.
The collection of signatures began…most people hoped the championship would be
cancelled and rescheduled for the next
3-4 months in Europe, supported by the same Arab sponsor of the World
Championship in Tryon.
Although the real result was, by now, compromised (because many riders had
already run at 20 km/h for most of the track while others had decided to slow down
and finished three hours later), the final decision was to start all over again at
Once the real starting line was identified, the race began along the second loop of
the 160 km ride; officially, the first loop of the new 120 km ride.
When the riders were, more or less, halfway down the second loop, it started to
rain. Nothing really important compared to Florence, announced by world television
news (luckily the hurricane was losing its power and slowing down!).
As a result, the cooling area was flooded due to the not draining ground that was
brought over the previous day. The vet gate and surrounding areas got more and
more crowded with people.
Nobody respected the regulation that banned photos and videos in the trotting area.
All sort of documentation started invading the web and became viral.
Everybody was furious, there was shouting everywhere and threats and swear
words were addressed to the President of the Ground Jury, the FEI and the
organizing committee. A real revolt was taking place and the UAE led it with great
The riders were running their third loop but everybody wanted to stop the race led
by Spain who lost Sh. Hamdan at the first loop, followed by a competitive France
aiming at the medal.
It was time for another wet blanket…the event was cancelled! The official
announcement I personally received from the O.C., states that the event is
cancelled due to the dangerous combination of heat and humidity and by rain (that
had stopped a while ago!). The event was cancelled for the welfare of the horse.
The real show began in a very hilarious atmosphere: French riders started galloping
inside the vet gate, the Spanish riders simulated victory in an imaginary finish line,
there was a lot of shouting going on while judges were in tears, comforted by
visitors passing by.
I was tired and very disappointed, I hopped in my car and headed towards the
highway, my hotel was 35 km from the venue of the World Championship.
I couldn’t wait till this whole story was over.
I needed a shower with some real soap, no more wet blankets!
This tragicomic story will have a very important impact on my job and myself. Shall I
close down leaving the role of journalist to social media, rip up the pages of the
magazine my sponsors and I have always believed in and start again with new
enthusiasm and desire to change?
After all, negative experiences are often necessary…they could turn into new
sources of inspiration.
After this experience I honestly hope that the FEI will look deeper into endurance
regulations and choose the right direction, otherwise endurance riding will become
a footnote of equestrian sports.
Who is guilty? Probably the right people were not in the right places and there was
a total lack of expertise among those supposed to be the judges. Furthermore, this
discipline in Tryon has been managed with great superficiality.
To conclude, I was sorry to notice that the riders of the American Team stood there
amazed and a bit embarassed; it is not their fault of course, but we were their
I’m curious to find out what’s the point of view of the American Federation regarding
Let’s wait for the wind of change to blow!