FEI General Assembly: Equine Welfare Takes Center Stage, Changes For Paris 2024

Nov 15, 2022 - 8:04 AM

Ingmar De Vos secured a third and final term as president of the Fédération Equestre Internationale during the group’s hybrid General Assembly, held Nov. 10-13 in Cape Town, South Africa. Attendees also approved full revisions of dressage, para-dressage, eventing and veterinary rules, as well as rule changes to other disciplines, and FEI Regulations and ranking rules for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Sixty-six national federations voted in person, while 42 federations voted online.

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Ingmar De Vos, elected to a third term as FEI president, addresses the General Assembly. FEI/Richard Juilliart Photo

Here are a few key takeaways from the 2022 General Assembly:

A Focus On Equine Welfare

The most anticipated session was a presentation by the independent Equine Ethics and Wellbeing Commission, established in June 2022 to highlight ways that the FEI equestrian community can address growing public concern related to the welfare and well-being of horses in sport.

Dr. Natalie Waran of New Zealand, an internationally recognized animal behavior and welfare scientist, chairs the commission. She noted that the commission will analyze the different aspects of equine welfare that can affect social license to operate in the context of the FEI’s activities, with the ultimate goal of recommending a practical course of action.

The commission has made some early recommendations that were published ahead of the assembly and then discussed during the session. The two that garnered the most attention were recommendations for dressage—that a double bridle no longer be required for Grand Prix, and that spurs no longer be compulsory.  The FEI Dressage Committee has decided to continue requiring the double bridle, but noted that since “dummy” spurs (without a shank) are legal, that it would consider removing the requirement for spurs.

“We are all equestrian stakeholders,” Dr. Waran said in her address to the General Assembly. “As the commission, we will be blunt, we will be direct and we will tell you the truth. But in the end we will be here with you. There is change that needs to happen and we are here to develop a strategy, provide objective advice, make recommendations and then see how these recommendations can be put into operation.”

The commission has conducted two surveys about perceptions of equine welfare in sport—one of the general public and one of the equestrian community—to inform its actions going forward. You can read the full results of the surveys here.

Changes For Paris 2024

There will be several changes in the Olympic rules after Tokyo:

• The show jumping team competition will be held before the individual competition, reverting to the format that was used prior to Tokyo.

• Minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) for show jumping must be obtained in grand prix, Nations Cup or World Cup competitions with a minimum height of 1.55 meters. Special qualifying competitions are no longer allowed, and MERs for the Olympic Games can no longer be obtained in competitions with a height of 1.50 meters.

• The MER for dressage has been raised from 66.00% to 67.00%.

• The Grand Prix Special (dressage team final) will no longer be ridden to music. The consensus was that it was distracting and ineffective in Tokyo.

• A “confirmation” MER will be required for eventing—an additional qualifying result in a CCI4*-S,  CCI4*-L or CCI5*-L to be obtained between Jan. 1, 2024 and June 24, 2024. (This is in addition to one qualifying result at a CCI5*-L, or one qualifying result in a CCI4*-L and one qualifying result in a CCI4*-S.) MERs must be obtained at different events.

Nosebleed Incident In Tokyo Prompts Show Jumping Rule Revision

During the individual jumping final in Tokyo, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor was midway through his round on Kilkenny when blood began streaming from the gray gelding’s nostrils. While officials check horses’ mouths and flanks for blood, there was no provision in the rules for a nosebleed, so O’Connor’s result stood, and he finished seventh.

To remedy this oversight, the national federations of Sweden and the Netherlands both proposed rule changes. The FEI jumping committee adopted Sweden’s, which gives the president of the ground jury (or their designee) the discretion to eliminate a competitor during a round if it is contrary to the principles of horse welfare to allow the round to continue. The decision to eliminate is final and not subject to appeal or protest.

FEI Endurance World Championship Reschedued

The FEI Endurance World Championship, originally allocated to Verona (Italy), will be held in Boudheib (United Arab Emirates). The championship was originally scheduled for October 2022, but the FEI canceled the host agreement with Verona in September over concerns about track readiness and safety. The rescheduled championship will take place Feb. 20-26, 2023.

New FEI Athletes Committee Representatives

The Athletes Committee was introduced in 2014 in order to give athletes more of a voice in the governance of international sport. Representatives serve four-year terms and are elected by their fellow riders via online voting.

The new representatives for 2022-2026 are listed below, along with the number of votes they received. Irish show jumper Jessica Kürten was appointed chair of the committee.

Athletes_elections_2022_resultsIn announcing the winners during the assembly, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez lamented the low voting participation (just over 5 percent of eligible athletes voted), as well as the lack of interest among athletes in being candidates for the committee. The athletes committee report noted that changes may need to be considered to increase voting participation as well as encouraging athletes to become candidates.

Limitations On Eventing Course Designers

The Dutch federation submitted a rule proposal to limit a course designer from building the cross-country course for more than two consecutive years at FEI Championships, in order to diversify course building.

After mixed feedback from other federations, the eventing committee recommended a rule limiting a course designer to six consecutive years at the same venue at the CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L levels (including championships), and eight years at the CCI5*-L level. A course designer can officiate at a venue again after a break of three years.

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