The FEI Bureau gave its unanimous approval to new Stewards’ guidelines today, April 15, on warm-up techniques produced by the Working Group formed after the round-table conference held in Lausanne on Feb. 9.
One of the key stipulations in the Working Group’s report was that all unacceptable training methods and techniques must be stopped immediately. The Working Group was also insistent that abuse of the horse should be avoided and, in particular, stressing the horse, aggressive riding and inflicting pain and/or discomfort on the horse must be prevented.
The current guidelines for FEI Stewards already include instructions covering aggressive riding, but the Working Group has created a new Annex (XIII) that provides clear instructions for steps to take relating to flexion of the horse’s neck during pre- and post-competition training.
The key initiatives in the new guidelines, which will be implemented starting May 15, 2010, are:
- Movements keeping the horse’s head and neck carriage in a sustained or fixed position may only be performed for a maximum of 10 minutes without change (diagrams defining the head and neck positions will be provided to the Stewards).
- No single neck position should be maintained which may lead to tiredness or stress.
- The rider is not permitted to use rough or abrupt aids or apply constant unyielding pressure on the horse’s mouth through a fixed arm and hand position.
The guidelines state that it is the steward’s responsibility to ensure that riders respect the above procedures and intervene if required. The steward will intervene should he/she observe:
- Neck stretching achieved through forced or aggressive riding.
- The use of extreme flexion if it does not comply with the above.
- A rider deliberately maintaining a sustained fixed head and neck carriage longer than approximately 10 minutes.
- If the horse is in a state of general stress and/or fatigue.
The steward may also ask the rider to walk for a certain period in situations where the rider’s stress may cause undesired riding.
Only in exceptional circumstances and with the permission of the Chief Steward, may a pre-competition training session exceed one hour. There should be at least one-hour break between any training and warm-up periods.
Repetition of movements carried out in the practice arena, post-competition, may not exceed a period of 10 minutes.
All training sessions, including pre-competition warm-up, may only be performed in the official training arena while under the supervision of stewards. Use of a training arena outside the official training period, and/or in an unsupervised arena, may, at the discretion of the Ground Jury, lead to the rider’s disqualification.
The Chief Steward must be present in the training arena during pre-competition training and be in a position to observe the training arena at events where numerous training arenas are in use, or appoint a suitable deputy.
A new education and assessment system for Stewards will ensure consistency and a high standard of stewarding.
“Everyone in the FEI has horse welfare at heart, and these new guidelines will help the Stewards be more proactive, giving them the authority to do their job and prevent abuse in all disciplines,” Working Group Chair Frank Kemperman said. “A huge amount of work has gone into producing these guidelines, so it is pleasing that the Bureau has given them unanimous approval. The principle on which these guidelines are based is respect for the horse, but also for the Stewards, who do a difficult job with great dedication.”