Organisers for the 2022 FEI Endurance World Championship - which was only recently reallocated to Butheeb (UAE) at the FEI General Assembly in Cape Town (RSA) last November - pulled out all the stops to provide an open-house invitation for National Federations (NFs) and teams to experience first-hand the facilities on offer at the Butheeb International Endurance Village (BIEV).
The Test Event was held from 8 to 11 December, using an existing event in the FEI Calendar, and included three competitions from 1* to 3* with a healthy mix of international combinations taking the top positions - including Uruguay, Portugal and Great Britain, alongside the host nation UAE.
President of the Ground Jury and Chair of the FEI Endurance Committee Christian Lozano (FRA) was very impressed with the outcomes of the Test Event, explaining “the OC had just under one month to prepare for this test event, but they were keen to go ahead as this was an ideal opportunity to test all the systems in place and give the chef d’equipes the opportunity to get to know Butheeb and provide feedback on the facilities, the different logistical preparations as well as the track and footing.
“While this was used as a test event for the World Championship to be held from 20-26 February next year, this was not a test event of the World Championship track itself; for example, the 160km competition on Friday 9 December was held over 5 loops, unlike the Championship competition which will be held over 6 loops, giving the horses more recovery opportunities between loops.”
Technical Delegate Sharon Du Plessis (BOT) reiterated the intention of the Test Event, adding “we were able to see the full spectrum of the terrain on offer at Butheeb, with good, natural, wide tracks, fully secured and very little deep sand, with just five kilometres of deep sand areas to be modified for the Championship track – among other improvements to be made in the coming weeks.
“The whole community has been asking for more technical and slower tracks – and this is what they will get in Butheeb.”
In addition to testing the sporting and technical infrastructures, the OC held a hybrid information session for Chef d’Equipes on 10 December which proved very popular with approximately 60 participants, including fourteen NFs represented at the meeting in person, and a further 12 NFs joining online. The debrief began with members of the OC including Mustafa Mafoudi, and UAE National Federation representatives, Dr. Ali Tweisi, Mahmoud Zyoud and Abdullah Al Naqbi, Director of Administration and Support Services, Head of Media and Communication Department, presenting the venue and discussing some of the more logistical details.
FEI Endurance Director Christina Abu-Dayyeh (JOR) as well as FEI Director Technology and Sport Services Gaspard Dufour (FRA), alongside President of the Ground Jury Christian Lozano (FRA), Technical Delegate Sharon Du Plessis (BOT) completed the line-up, providing a broad panel to answer any questions or concerns raised by the participants.
With a little over two months to go, the OC actively encouraged the Chef d’Equipes to provide their feedback in a bid to find effective solutions for many of the more logistical and operational questions. Overall, the National Federations expressed their satisfaction with the conditions and facilities on offer, and the success of the Test Event, noting the further modifications to be made to the track prior to the Championship, with the six loops providing additional rest points and veterinary checks, and the additional water points as agreed during the meeting.
Executive Board Member and Chair of Group VII Sami Al Duhami (KSA) provided the closing remarks and noted the positive efforts and great collaboration with the Organising Committee and the UAE NF to deliver the Championship in February.
Following the Test Event and to quell any remaining concerns regarding the terrain, internationally renowned footing expert and Professor at the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences, Dr. Lars Roepstroff has been commissioned to assess the Championship track in January of 2023. Roepstroff, who also has a background as the Swedish Team Veterinarian for Endurance, will then deliver a report to the FEI and the Organising Committee, with relevant feedback on the terrain and any potential improvements that might need to be made prior to the Championship.
“There is no “standard” terrain, this is a World Championship, and world-class riding and fitness is required in order to be successful and to ensure both horse and rider complete the course in good condition”, said FEI Endurance Director Christina Abu-Dayyeh (JOR).
“It’s important that a certain percentage of the track is natural and in keeping with the local environment, wherever that may be, and as you would expect at this level, every athlete taking part will need to plan and manage their ride and pace according to the conditions and according to their horse.
“We are confident the horses will be very well looked after, with great facilities and an experienced Organising Committee in Butheeb, ensuring all the veterinary checks and processes in line with the FEI Rules are fully adhered to.”