The World Equestrian Games hit a few snafus today in the FEI Endurance Racing event, ultimately canceling the event mid-race.
The day started with chaos after several riders were misdirected onto the route. Those following the official livestream could see a Spanish team member being wrongly directed soon after the start, while the GPS tracking showed two other horses running back in the direction of the vet gate when they should have turned right. About 20 riders then encountered others coming the other way at a bridge. As a result, some riders completed a 40 km loop and were then stopped. The decision was made to restart the race 45 minutes after the last rider had completed the first loop, after all horses passed a new veterinary check, then restarted as a 120 km championship.
After the event recommenced at 11:15 a.m. the FEI cancelled the competition altogether later in the day — it’s unclear exactly when it was cancelled, only that some horses were on the course for nearly an hour after the decision — due to a potentially dangerously high combination of heat and humidity, and the conditions out on the trail following heavy rain in the afternoon. Chaos erupted around the vet box when the decision was announced with outraged riders becoming quite angry. Eventually, local police were called to the scene.
British scientist Dr David Marlin, who has been working on heat and humidity studies for the FEI since the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, provided the Ground Jury with data from the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) index which showed a reading of 31. Anything over 25 is monitored very closely, and the officials agreed unanimously that 31 presented an unacceptable risk to horse welfare.
Part of the issue was the heavy rain that fell, however the WEG Endurance racing course was unfinished to the point of embarrassment, with videos showing a circuit that looked like it passed through a construction zone.
It’s important to note that the FEI Endurance racing is different from the AERC Endurance competitions we normally see in the US. The event at WEG isn’t like the Tevis Cup, where we see horses competing over varied terrain and the motto is “to finish is to win”. FEI endurance racing is, well, racing. Horses and riders compete over a marked 160 km course that is often more like a track and they race against the clock.
Team USA Brings Home the Gold in Reining Event
On a more positive note, the reining events took place today without any controversy. Featuring large circles, flying lead changes 360 degree spins and sliding stops, US riders Dan Huss and Jordan Larson wowed the judges.
All 83 Pairs accepted by Eventing Ground Jury
There will be 83 pairs and 16 teams competing in the Eventing competition. Dressage begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST. Let’s just hope that Hurricane Florence holds off and that the footing stays safe for cross country!