Organizers of upcoming FEI endurance rides worldwide are being urged to take part in a trial of lower heart-rate parameters, in a bid to reduce attrition rates.

The trial will take place from February 1 – April 1, giving the FEI’s new “temporary” endurance committee time to review results before the FEI Sports Forum from April 16-17.

But there has already been a setback with the major ride in Fontainebleau, France, declining to participate after “taking into account the many comments of the riders.” The organizer – who has no title-sponsor this time – faced a boycott. Fontainebleau also notes that veterinarians have always had the opportunity to request a re-examination if the horse’s recovery time is too long.

The trial parameters are 64 beats per minute (bpm) with a presentation time of 20 minutes at the first vet-gate, and then 60 bpm in 20 minutes at all other gates and the final inspection. Current parameters are 64 bpm within 20 minutes for all gates and 64 bpm within 30 minutes for the final inspection. Critics say the proposals won’t make a significant difference, and ought to be applied simultaneously with other measures.

Supporting Fontainebleau’s decision, Stephane Chazel is a member of the FEI endurance committee which was replaced by the temporary committee during the fall. He said, “I am against this measure, there are no problems on our races in Europe. I do not see the interest in changing from 64 to 60. The FEI is just looking to distract, to make us forget its responsibility for the WEG fiasco!”

French rider Catherine Faure posted: “As if being at 60 instead of 64 was a sign of good health of the horse and good management of the rider!! It is a ridiculous and useless measure that will not solve problems outside our borders!”

Because it is the closed season for endurance in Europe and most of north America, the trial will take place mostly in the southern hemisphere, though spring rides in Florida and New Mexico are among the 50 fixtures approached.

This is the second major initiative of the FEI’s new endurance “temporary” committee. After its inaugural meeting last month, the committee announced steps to increase transparency about ride-related equine deaths with a new rule effective from February 1. The need for this was illustrated on January 4 at the first of the UAE’s big-purse rides, the 345-horse starter Sheikh Mohammed Cup in Dubai. Viking, a 12-year-old UAE-trained horse lent to young South American rider visitor, sustained a catastrophic (fatal) injury according to the FEI. However, the official Dubai results listed Viking as eliminated for GA (irregular gait.)

The poor completion rate of 30% in the Sheikh Mohammed Cup, plus reports of stewards needing to remove 20 distressed and lame horses during the loops themselves, has provoked widespread debate. FEI endurance committee member and elected athlete representative Tarek Taher posted on his public Facebook page: “This is unacceptable. I am mad as hell.”