Will There be Another WEG?

The future of the FEI World Equestrian Games™, already in question, has been further clouded by the endurance day disaster that led to cancellation of that competition at the Tryon International Equestrian Center Tuesday.

This afternoon, several officials, including FEI President Ingmar De Vos, held a press conference to discuss the steps they are taking in the endurance controversy, which began with an erroneous re-route of some starters and ended when a halt was called due to high heat and humidity, as well as slippery terrain that required extra exertion from the horses.

From left: Thomas Timmons, president of the veterinary commission for endurance; Goran Akerstrom FEI veterinary director; and Ingmar De Vos, FEI president. Nancy Jaffer

The decision to stop the race raised a furor, even though the FEI said it was done for the welfare of the horses. There were 53 horses treated at the vet clinic after the ride, 52 of whom were admitted for metabolic reasons, with 32 of that number needing intravenous fluid. One horse, Barack Obama from the New Zealand team, was euthanized. The 20-year-old Anglo-Arab was treated for kidney problems and the owner gave permission to put him down. An investigation into the endurance matter is ongoing.

FEI Veterinary Director Goran Akerstrom was questioned about the weather situation, since North Carolina is known for its heat and humidity in mid-September, which is also hurricane season. Hurricane Florence has led to mass evacuations in eastern North Carolina, and many emergency personnel and other state employees who were deployed in connection with the Games had to leave, as the governor imposed a state of emergency and called out the National Guard because of the storm.

The veterinary director said the FEI made a study of the weather in the area for the last three years, and that’s why the WEG was moved into September, two weeks later than it was first scheduled when the original organizers in Bromont, Quebec, had financial problems that put an end to their attempts to host the world championships in eight disciplines.

Asked what will happen to the WEG, the FEI president called that “a very good question,” but noted that this WEG is still running. Obviously, the FEI wants to take stock of things once the Tryon WEG is finished, and the subject is scheduled for discussion at the FEI’s General Assembly this autumn. While there are no formal bidders for WEG 2022, Ingmar said, “There is still interest by organizations to host these Games.” The FEI “needs to look at the concept of the Games; we need to see, maybe we can make some adaptation of the format of the Games.”

He added there are “several options” but it is “too early in the game” to make a decision.

Most of the organizers who have hosted the WEG, which began in 1990 as a one-off staged in Stockholm, Sweden, have had financial problems because of the enormous demands involved in showcasing so many different disciplines over nearly two weeks. There has been a call on several fronts to go back to stand-alone world championships, or perhaps combine world championships in two disciplines, such as the way show jumping and dressage were coupled in England for the European championships several years ago.

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