By Michael Pavitt

UAE have been stripped of two international endurance events ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Executive Board has stripped the United Arab Emirates of two endurance races scheduled to be held later this month in an emergency measure, they claim, designed to protect horse welfare.

The Board meeting, held at the FEI Headquarters in Lausanne, was chaired by newly-elected President Ingmar de Vos.

The decision follows a mandate from the FEI Bureau, who urged the Board to investigate concerns regarding the welfare of horses in the UAE and the non-compliance with FEI rules and regulations in the country.

It comes after an Australian-bred horse, Splitter Creek Bundy, died as a consequence of two broken forelegs sustained during the Al Reef Cup, held in Abu Dhabi last month.

"We have made this our top priority and will make our conclusions as speedily as possible so that the recommendations can be presented to the Bureau for urgent consideration," said De Vos.

Despite the decision to remove two international events from the UAE, there is no indication as to whether the 2016 World Endurance Championship, awarded to the country by the FEI in December, could be in doubt.

Several national federations had expressed concerns about welfare issues in the UAE with boycotts of next year's showpiece tournament being rumoured.

Dubai is set to host the 2016 World Endurance Championship ©Getty ImagesDubai is set to host the 2016 World Endurance Championship ©Getty Images

A special group, the FEI Endurance Strategic Planning (ESPG), had been set-up by the world governing body's then President, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, to investigate problems in endurance.

But it faced accusations of conflicts of interest as she is married to Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and an endurance competitor who in 2009 was himself banned for six months in connection with a positive steroids test.

John McEwen, the then first vice-president of the FEI, chaired the ESPG but it is perhaps not a coincidence that the decision not to hold the two races in the UAE has coincided with Princess Haya stepping down as FEI President after not seeking a third-term and being replaced in December by De Vos. 

Following recommendations from the ESPG, the FEI strengthened endurance rules to protect and promote horse welfare, with measures including additional doping tests, injury surveillance and reporting, athlete penalties for equine injuries and extended rest periods for horses.

Additional rules were also introduced to heighten the responsibility and accountability of riders, trainers and officials.

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