By Nick Butler

Endurance racing is extremely popular in the UAE, particularly among members of the Royal Family ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe United Arab Emirates has been suspended from the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) today following an investigation into "major horse welfare issues" and allegedly faked results in endurance events.

The FEI Bureau, chaired by the Federation's President Ingmar De Vos, unanimously decided to suspend the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF), with the ban to be imposed immediately.

It ruled the EEF "may not attend or be represented at any session or meeting of any body of the FEI, may not organise any international events, and its members cannot participate in any international events".

However, UAE athletes from disciplines other than endurance may compete under the FEI flag in international competitions organised outside the country, a statement confirmed.

These has been huge criticism of horse welfare issues in the UAE recently after images appeared to show a horse with two broken forelegs dying at a race in Abu Dhabi.

There have since been accusations races have been "ghost-registered" with the FEI, with results appearing to having been duplicated from earlier events.

This allows horses to compete at a higher level than their true experience and fitness levels, thus putting their welfare at risk.

Last month, the FEI withdrew recognition for endurance events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but have now been forced to take the next step.

The row with the UAE authorities is a major challenge for FEI President Ingmar De Vos ©FEIThe row with the UAE authorities is a major challenge for FEI President Ingmar De Vos ©FEI

Before the suspension will be lifted, the EEF must sign an agreement with the FEI "pledging to take such action as the FEI Bureau deems necessary to assure the FEI and all stakeholders that the UAE Federation is protecting the welfare of the horse and complying fully with the FEI Rules and Regulations".

The Endurance World Championships are scheduled to be held in Dubai in December 2016, so if the situation is not resolved well before then, it is likely they could be moved elsewhere.

"The decision to suspend a National Federation is not something that is taken lightly and we only should do this if no other remedy can be found," said De Vos.

"Sadly this was the only option left, but we have to take our responsibility and must never be afraid of tackling major issues head-on.

"Where horse welfare is concerned the FEI has to show leadership and solve problems in a structural way without making any concessions.

"We were confident that strict enforcement of the new rules implemented on August 1, 2014 following adoption of the recommendations from the Endurance Strategic Planning Group would be effective in reducing the numbers of catastrophic injuries and fatalities in the UAE,

"But regretfully this has not been the case.

"There have also been other major non-compliance issues, so in the end we had no other choice than taking this drastic measure to deal with an unacceptable situation."

Dubai is due to host the 2016 FEI Endurance World Championships ©Getty ImagesDubai is due to host the 2016 FEI Endurance World Championships ©Getty Images

The EEF has been notified of the suspension by FEI secretary general Sabrina Zeender today and has 30 days to appeal the suspension to the FEI Tribunal.

The Equestrian Community Integrity Unit has also been convened to conduct a "full investigation" into allegations of fake events and the duplication of results at FEI Endurance events in the UAE.

No statement has yet been given by the UAE authorities responding to the suspension.

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March 2015: International Equestrian Federation strips UAE of two endurance events to protect horse welfare
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December 2014: Dubai chosen to host 2016 World Endurance Championship by FEI
November 2013: FEI Endurance Strategic Planning Group calls on National Federations to approve proposals
October 2013: FEI officials unhappy over remarks by Belgian coach about endurance racing