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A Just World Made in Taiwan
30 October 2010, 10h45 CDT (GMT-5)

2010 FEI General Assembly
2010 International Equestrian Federation General Assembly
Click logo for Canada's delegation

"April," TS Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, "is the cruellest month". For me, the frenzy of travel makes this November a strong contender for the title.

I am currently en route to Taipei to represent Canada at the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI’s) General Assembly. From door to door, the voyage involves eighteen hours of flying, nine hours of layovers in three cities, two hours of driving, and one hour on a train. Ironically, horses are amongst the few missing conveyances.

This year’s General Assembly promises to be an unusually dramatic affair. For the first time in the FEI’s eighty-nine year history, a serving president is being challenged in a re-election exercise, rather than being acclaimed, and all three candidates are grappling with the question of how much campaigning is too much in an organisation unaccustomed to overt electioneering, and how much is too little in a hotly disputed race.

The roots of this contested election are manifold: personality conflicts; tensions between our sport’s historic past and its unwritten future; regional divides between the established European powers, the ascendant New World countries, and the emerging Asian states; and a dispute that convulsed the equestrian world over the probity of the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in competition horses.

All these issues will come to a climax, if not a conclusion, at the General Assembly, the sole forum where equestrianism can become a blood sport.

Less contentious, but certainly no less important, will be efforts to encourage the FEI and individual national federations to link our sport to global humanitarian work.

As long as I have had the privilege to ride for Canada in international competition, I have done so in partnership with UNICEF and in support of their efforts to end exploitative child labour and childhood HIV-AIDS. I believe passionately that any athlete who wears the maple leaf serves not only as a contender in his sport, but also as an ambassador of Canadian identity: on the field of honour and off, his words and deeds project the ideals of our country and the vision of the world Canadians aspire to create.

With this in mind, I am delighted to be working with Jessica Newman of Just World International, to encourage our colleagues at the General Assembly to create similar partnerships between their national equestrian federations and humanitarian organisations. Equine Canada is an enthusiastic supporter of Just World International, and I suspect that by the end of the General Assembly, many others will be as well.

In an effort to keep Canadians abreast of developments in Taipei, I will once again stress my mobile to its limits, and post regular Twitter tweets and Facebook updates from the floor. I invite anyone interested in posing questions, offering advice, or keeping the Canadian delegation accountable to contact us directly through either social medium as debate unfolds.


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