This year's International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Endurance World Championships in Italy have been postponed until May 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to push back the event in Pisa to next year, backed almost unanimously by National Federations, was made due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 crisis on equestrian sport, the FEI said.
Before announcing the decision, the FEI canvassed opinion within all 51 National Federations, also asking whether they would participate in their region’s Continental Championships if the World Championships were moved to 2021.
A total of 34 National Federations responded to the questionnaire, of which 33 were positive, both to the postponement and their participation, where relevant, in one of the Continental Championships next year.
"Our endurance community made it very clear to the FEI that they want a World Championships, particularly after losing the last edition at Tryon in 2018, but horse welfare and a level playing field could not have been guaranteed if the Championships had run in September, so it was the best solution to move the Championships to May of next year," FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said.
"Having consulted with the National Federations that compete in endurance, we now feel that we have reached a compromise that works for everyone, but especially for our horses, as there will now be time for them to do the necessary preparation work and achieve their qualification for this major event."
The decision to postpone was agreed jointly by the FEI, the Italian National Federation and the event organisers.
The Championships were due to have been held at San Rossore in September this year, but the FEI said it was "simply not possible to maintain the original date" owing to the pandemic and the restrictions on both travel and training of horses.
Final approval of the postponement was given by the FEI Board at an Extraordinary meeting held by videoconference last week.
The FEI Board also agreed to prolong the qualification period for the Championships in order to allow more time for horses and athletes following the disruption to this year’s calendar.
Two Continental Endurance Championships are already scheduled to run next year - the Pan American Championships for Seniors and Young Riders in Campinas, Brazil from July 28 to 29 July and the European Championships in the Dutch venue of Ermelo from September 6 to 11.
More than 800 events have already been cancelled and numerous events have been rescheduled.
The FEI Endurance World Championships for Young Horses and the FEI Endurance European Championships for Young Riders amd Juniors, which are due to be held in Vic, Spain from September 25 to 27 this year, will be discussed by the FEI Board during this week’s three-day meeting via videoconference.