Imagine being a talented, horse-loving teen stuck in the middle of a war.
Instead of dreaming about representing your country at the Olympic Games, you are helping your family set your horses free in the hope they will survive the bombing. The one thing about horse lovers worldwide is they stick together and following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces on February 24, the FEI set aside a $A1.5 million relief fund to aid the equestrian community in the country, as well as those who have left the embattled nation.
“Sport is a network which relies and thrives on team spirit and camaraderie and it is through solidarity, cooperation, and friendship that we can offer support and make a difference to the people of Ukraine in these challenging times,” FEI president Ingmar De Vos said.
“They can count on our continuous and tireless support.”
In the months that followed the invasion, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) also joined forces with the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund, establishing the USEF Ukraine Relief Fund to support Ukraine horses and equestrians, with 100 per cent of funds raised going to the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund to be distributed by the FEI for projects approved by the USEF.
Support to the equestrian community in Ukraine has been ongoing since February and through the summer months. Working closely with the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation, the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund has established a number of programs and activations with the help of the charity foundation providing invaluable insights and logistical support on the ground.
A key area that required immediate action was assistance in the relocation of horses from conflict zones.
“Our general approach has been about supporting and leading initiatives to provide relief to the Ukrainian equestrian community rather than distributing money,” FEI Solidarity Director Jean Philippe Camboulives explained.
“When the conflict began and there was a desperate need to relocate horses, we initially set up a logistical hub in Granat, located in western Ukraine between the city of Lviv and the Polish border, to prepare horses for transfer into the European Union.
“However, as time went on, we quickly realised we could provide a lot of relief to horse owners by helping them keep their horses in safer regions within Ukraine, and for this, we purchased a number of horse boxes which have been set up in strategic hubs around Ukraine, providing hundreds of horses with a safe place to stay.
“Funding and distribution to regional hubs of critical horse supplies such as feed, bedding, and medication are also among the initiatives the FEI is supporting through the Solidarity Relief Fund. We have been able to identify the specific needs and direct our assistance thanks to the great collaboration with the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation, whose guidance we rely upon and who are our eyes and ears on the ground.”
From a sporting and talent perspective, and in a bid to assist aspiring athletes in their quest to reach their goals, the fund has also supplied athlete scholarships and has provided training support for young athletes.
An encouraging development was the participation of Danylo Konovalov, 17, and Diana Borovyk, 21, in this summer’s FEI Dressage European Championships for Juniors and Young Riders held at Hartpury in England. Both athletes had been selected to receive scholarship grants based on the existing FEI Solidarity Athlete Scholarship scheme to support training and competition-related preparation with the ultimate goal of representing Ukraine at FEI Championships in 2022 and 2023.
In addition, dressage rider Diana Borovyk received a personal invitation to participate in the CDIY organised in the framework of CHIO Aachen 2022. She took part in the event, which she described as “a dream come true”, placing 12th in the individual class.
Borovyk survived the blockade of Sumy, a town located in north-eastern Ukraine, which was among the first to be invaded by the Russian troops in March. She took up residence in her local equestrian centre to be with her horses while the war raged around her.
Assistance was also provided to five young vaulting athletes – Polina Shovkova (14), sisters Katya (14) and Jenya (11) Panasenko, Sonia Shulga (14) and Marta Lopaienko (15) – who became the first team to ever represent Ukraine in international Vaulting Event when they participated in CVI1* in Kaposvár, Hungary, in May.
The team’s participation in Kaposvár came just a few short months after fleeing their hometown of Bratislava, They were welcomed wholeheartedly by members of the local Vaulting community and were supported financially by the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund.
Another noteworthy initiative was the purchase of equine medicines and veterinary supplies for distribution to Ukrainian veterinarians.
Before the launch of this project, the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation had reached out to almost all the equine veterinarians in the country to map the situation of horse welfare and to understand the level of help required.
Numerous problem areas were highlighted, including the lack of medicines, such as painkillers, anaesthetics, sedatives, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Essential equipment such as portable x-ray, ultrasound, and endoscope machines was also noted, as well as the very limited financial resources of horse owners to pay for treatment. The FEI Solidarity Relief Fund in cooperation with the USEF stepped in to help.
The most needed medications and supplies worth around $A150,000 were commissioned in Europe and delivered to a warehouse in Poland. From there, they were dispatched to Ukraine, where the foundation co-ordinated further transportation and delivery.
Some 7400 kg of veterinary supplies were distributed with the help of 22 veterinarians throughout Ukraine to treat common conditions such as colic, infections and lameness for 5700 horses.
“Help in key areas has been provided, but the needs are dire,” Mr De Vos said.
“We are headed into an uncertain winter and are confronted with strong demand for aid and shelter. The price of hay has skyrocketed and thousands of horses in the war zones are at risk of starvation.
“Such a drastic situation can only be alleviated through solidarity and cooperation. The European Equestrian Federation, and National Federations such as Great Britain, Poland, and Slovakia have stepped in to assist in various domains. Every bit counts and we appeal to all those who can to join the effort.
“We had hoped the situation on the ground would improve by the end of this year but things have in fact worsened. We are very aware that we are in for the long run and we are conscious that this war will have long-lasting repercussions on the Ukrainian people and their sporting industries. The entire region will suffer, and not only do we need to continue to assist Ukraine during the war, but we have to plan for the future as well when the war will end and equestrian sport in Ukraine and the region will have to be rebuilt.”
Additional information on the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund for Ukraine and explanations on how to apply for aid are available here.
This article appeared on The Regional on 9 November 2022.
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