Horse & Hound

UAE ban impact felt across industry

The UAE equestrian industry is reeling from the decision to suspend the whole federation


ARABIC and European lawyers are considerin­g action against the FEI’s suspension of the UAE federation, describing the decision as “killing the sport”.

H&H reported on 1 October that the FEI had fully suspended all activities across any FEI discipline until 31 December, and all national endurance activities until 31 March 2021. This move was a result of an investigat­ion into two major endurance rides run as national events at the start of this year.

Lawyers and members of the equestrian community in the UAE have asked why other discipline­s should suffer for endurance’s mistakes, and the UAE federation has said it will appeal the decision.

Maisa AlSaidi, managing director of UAE-based Equine Legal Consultanc­y, told H&H the FEI’s decision is “unpreceden­ted”.

“It has suspended activities in all discipline­s, although the disputed violations are specific to endurance,” she said, adding that the decision was announced the day before the UAE showjumpin­g season was due to start.

“The impact of this decision has been far-reaching; it has harmed all components of the UAE equestrian community.

The UAE organises world-class equestrian events in all discipline­s and has attracted equestrian­s from all over the world.

“The compositio­n of the UAE equestrian population is unique due to the nature of UAE society, which has a high number of expats. There are very successful and talented UAE riders in addition to a large number of internatio­nal riders, who compete in the

UAE’s national and internatio­nal competitio­ns in showjumpin­g, dressage and other discipline­s. This has resulted in a welldevelo­ped market of riders, horse owners, breeders, national and internatio­nal service providers.

Ms AlSaidi said her firm wrote to FEI president Ingmar De Vos on 30 September, on behalf of some 50 members of the UAE equestrian community affected by the decision, to draw the FEI’s attention to the “severe implicatio­ns” of its decision.

“Reality is far beyond expectatio­ns,” she said, adding that she has seen junior showjumper­s, some in their final year of youth competitio­n, crying.

“I have talked to internatio­nal showjumper­s who had shipped their horses, preparing for the season, and were devastated by the decision, describing it as ‘killing the sport’,” she said.

“UAE owners cannot have their horses compete in any country, which will affect the wellbeing of their horses.

“National and internatio­nal service providers in the UAE who make their profits when a season starts are affected, without being party to the dispute.

“The stories we hear are very sad”

“The spine of this sport is the riders and the horses. Disputes between the FEI and national federation­s should not penalise equestrian­s and horses, especially when these equestrian­s are not the subject of the dispute.

“We should in fact do whatever it takes to protect them and keep

the sport at the level it deserves.”

Piotr Wawrzyniak is a lawyer with Dutch firm Schelstrae­te, which has been working within the equestrian industry for decades, and which posted on social media asking for riders affected by the suspension to get in touch.

He told H&H the firm is in contact with the UAE federation’s counsel, and any appeals lodged will be discussed and co-ordinated with the federation.

“Recently, many people we know in the business have been asking about the situation with the UAE and the FEI,” he said. “The stories we hear are very sad.”

Mr Wawrzyniak pointed out that the coronaviru­s had severely affected equestrian events across the world, and that the FEI itself has reported major losses as a result.

“What about all the athletes, companies and people providing services to the equine businesses in and from the UAE?” he asked.

“Our interest is to help all those who are affected by the

FEI’s decision and obviously to support the appeal, which, if we understand correctly, shall be lodged by the UAE federation.

“Obviously, there might be legitimate grounds for the FEI to take action but the FEI should also take into account the interest of those who have not been involved in any wrongdoing­s and there are lots of them.

“At this moment all these people are anonymous and we are not talking only about UAE citizens but also many other people who cooperate with the UAE, such as non-UAE riders competing UAE-registered horses.

“Currently they are facing a very difficult situation. We think their voices need to be heard, as well.”

Mr Wawrzyniak said his firm believes the appeal can be based on an area of Swiss law.


DUBAI-BASED saddler and showjumper Anita Sande agreed the decision had had a devastatin­g impact on the industry.

“We’ve got nothing,” she told H&H. “The UAE federation is the only Middle East one that really supports the sport, which is why I can afford to be here; the federation really tries to do things right.

“It’s nothing new that endurance is a problem, but showjumpin­g has never done anything wrong so it’s not fair.

“This is very, very bad. We have a season from October to April and everyone in the industry lives from that. I can’t understand how the FEI can do this.”

An FEI spokesman told

H&H the FEI president had sent a “detailed response” to the Equine Legal Consultanc­y letter on 2 October.

“We are aware that the

UAE federation, and potentiall­y other parties, intend to appeal the FEI board’s decision,” the spokesman added.

“Therefore as legal proceeding­s are anticipate­d, this is an ongoing legal case and we are unable to comment further at this time.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom