What if Tryon was one of the safest Endurance World Championships ever?
On the article I wrote just after the WEG Endurance ride I tried to show how the dysfunctional disorganization of the OC was as guilty of the whole disaster as the weather conditions itself. On that moment FEI Officials were using the quantity of horse with metabolic issues and the death of one of them as a smoke screen to do not talk about all the problems that happened before and during the start of the race. At that time we needed to put it all together so we don’t forget anything. Now it is time to untangle some of those components.
Pippa Cuckson wrote a long article about the conditions we set for World Championships in which she also questions the Organizing Committee “clinic was full” argument itself. If there are no doubts about the number of horses in the clinic and that almost all of them were there due to metabolic issues, there is nothing clear about the conditions of those horses. Only 3 of them were eliminated under the ME-TR status, which means that treatment is mandatory and signalizes a dangerous condition. All the other horses maybe were getting precautionary treatment, a safe practice that became quite normal in endurance rides*
Maybe the full clinic is just a consequence of the system that is built to protect the horses. Nowadays vets at the vet-check are strict when they spot a metabolic vulnerability and in the clinic even if the horse seems like it doesn't need fluids or any kind of treatment he gets one, just to be safe. That’s the way it is and the way it should be — we take the horses out of the ride to avoid a bigger problem. This should be an element to do not cancel the ride before the end since we have a system that ensures that only the fit ones are still on the track!
Those elimination numbers, after all, should be expected due to the Tryon track, but are not alarming as they seem. The ups and downs raises metabolic eliminations, but actually protects the horses. When facing a hill they are too tired to overcome a horse dramatically slow down (just walking or even standing still), while in a totally flat track they keep going even if their bodies cannot handle anymore effort — until they totally collapse or brake a leg (take Samorin 2016 as an example). Even for riders and veterinarians is hard to access a horse condition on a flat track, while on a hilly one everything gets pretty clear.**
Unfortunately the OC need for an excuse transformed Tryon on an example of dangerous track and made it hard to have deeper discussions about courses conditions and risk for horse’s health. Tryon’s track challenges served as an escape-goat for all the bad decisions made by the OC. Horses lives and more tragedies in the future are the price we will all pay.
*Even the horse who died was actually euthanized and nobody knows if it was due to a irreversible condition or an owners choice (its sad, but it happens — specially when we are talking about a 20 yo horse who is in a clinic on the other side of the world, which brings a lot of questions about cost, logistic and convenience of keeping the treatment).
** It’s just like when FEI wanted to lower the minimum weight to protect horses. It was obvious that with less weight speeds would raise, making it as risky — or even more — for horses then before. Those kind of discussions make me wonder if those who propose rules have ever rode a competitive endurance ride