The victory at this year’s World Endurance Championships went to Spain, but only because the three fastest riders were disqualified at the last gate. Unfortunately, the event was overshadowed by the death of yet another horse – this time on European soil.Mid-September, the World Endurance Championships took place in Samorin / Slovakia. Originally, this event was scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates, but after various scandals involving dead horses and falsified qualification results, the FEI decided – after protests from around the world – to relocate the Championship to Samorin, situated only a few kilometer Southeast of Bratislava, at the river Danube.
The 160 km were divided into 5 loops, of which the first and especially the last lead along the Danube. There was no elevation to tackle, the tracks lead apart from a small forest, mostly across open agricultural land or along the Danube – “technically demanding” is something different.
Spain dominated this year’s World Championships, as three of their five riders were among the Top Ten, and consequently they won Team-Gold. Winner of the individual ranking was the Spaniard Jaume Punti Dachs with Twyst Maison Blance (Arques Perspex / Hisham de Lardus) in 06:46:42 hours (average of 23,61 km/h). Vice-champion was Alex Luque Moral, also from Spain, on his Anglo-Arabian mare Calandria PH, Bronze went to Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain riding Waterlea Dawn Treader. All three rode the last loop in 30-34 km/h.
The Death of Ajayeb
Unfortunately, the event was overshadowed by the death of the mare Ajayeb: Ridden by Sheik Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, the 15-year-old mare broke her cannon during the fourth loop and had to be euthanized. Some observers felt, that she was already lame at gate 3, but was waved through. Four weeks prior to the championships, Ajayeb won with the same rider a 120 km ride, in 2015, she was European Champion under this year’s winner here at Samorin.
All five riders of the UAE, who were among the favorites, were disqualified because their horses were either lame or for metabolic reasons. Among them also Saif Ahmed al Mozroui with Nopoli del Ma and Abdulla Ghanim Al Marri on Quran El Ulm, who crossed the finish line before Jaume Punti Dachs. But it was a pitiful sight, when the 12-year-old gelding Nopoli crossed the finish line first. His crew celebrated him and Dubai TV’s live-stream announced him as winner, regardless of the apparent bad condition of this horse. To make Nopoli trotting out, instead of disqualifying or withdrawing him straight away, triggered on-the-spot “booos” as well as great indignation among the spectators. At the vetgate, he was barely able to trot, and one could see from a distance that the horse was lame, overstrained and simply couldn’t take it anymore.
Next time in USA
In Samorin, 133 riders from 41 nations were at the start, of which only 47 arrived at the finish line (i.e. 35%). For the next World Championships 2018 in the USA, we hope for a better completion rate, as well as for a more technically demanding course to slow the riders down, because the track at Samorin, especially on the straight lines along the Danube, reminded everybody too much of the desert races in the UAE. With only the exception that riders and horses did not have to suffer from the dust and heat.