Proposed rule changes pertaining to whip use and blood took center stage during the FEI General Assembly meeting, held Nov. 16-20, in Manama, Bahrain. Eventers now have more stringent rules in place.
Language was added to Article 526.3, Use Of Whip, to expand the ground jury’s power to determine abuse. In addition, specific instances of abuse were added to the list already included in the rule. These are: “multiple excessive uses of a whip between fences” and “if a horse’s skin is broken or has visible marks the use of whip will always be deemed to be excessive.”
A whip also may not be used more than twice for any one incident; previously it was three times.
The blood rule for eventing was also significantly altered and expanded. The previous rule stated, in entirety: “Blood on Horses must be reviewed case by case by the ground jury. Not all cases of blood will lead to elimination. In minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding, after investigation in consultation with the Veterinarian, the Ground Jury may authorize the Athlete to continue.”
Under the new eventing blood rule, there are differences for each phase.
For dressage: “If the ground jury suspects bleeding on the Horse during the test, he will stop the Horse to check. If the Horse shows fresh blood, it will be eliminated. The elimination is final. If the Judge through examination clarifies that the Horse has no fresh blood, the Horse may resume and finish its test.”
For cross-country: “All blood on the horse, if induced by the athlete (blood, bit, and whip), must be reviewed case by case by the Ground Jury. Non-minor cases of blood will result in Elimination.”
If the horse is bleeding in the mouth, the ground jury, in consultation with the veterinarian, can examine it and permit the horse to continue. But the wording was changed from “minor” bleeding to “fresh” bleeding in the mouth that will lead to the investigation.
For show jumping: Horses with blood on the flanks or mouth will be eliminated. “In minor cases of blood, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, Officials may authorize the rinsing or wiping of the mouth and allow the Athlete to continue; any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in Elimination (refer article 241). For all minor cases of blood induced by the Athlete in the mouth or related to spurs a Recorded Warning will be issued by the Ground Jury after providing the athlete the opportunity to have a hearing,” states the rest of the rule.
The FEI also voted to update rules on its yellow card system for eventing to go along with the blood and whip rule changes. They added “Recorded Warnings” to the type of penalty and spelled out scenarios that automatically result in a sanction:
• “All cases of minor Blood on Horse caused by the Athlete, either in the mouth or on flanks from spurs, shall be sanctioned by a Recorded Warning as a minimum or by stronger sanction(s) (as provided for under Art. 525.2).
• “All cases of excessive use of whip, as defined above, shall automatically be sanctioned with a Yellow Warning Card or by stronger sanction(s) (as provided for under Art. 525.2).
• “A Yellow Warning Card will be systematically awarded if the Athlete continues after clear 3 refusals, a fall or any form of elimination.
• “Should the same Athlete receive more than one Recorded Warning for a case of Athlete-induced Blood on a Horse within three years, he will automatically be issued a Yellow Warning Card.
• “Two Recorded Warnings, within a 12-month period, for the same offence, will result in a Yellow Warning Card.”
For any person who receives more than one yellow card within a year, the automatic suspension was raised to four months; previously it was two months.
Another rule allows FEI Nations Cup eventing competitions that have less than five national federations (but no less than three) entered to extend invitations for two teams per nation, with the team competing for the Nations Cup points determined before the start of competition.
The new star system for eventing will debut in the 2019 season.
The definition of a cross-country runout has undergone a re-write for 2019. If the body of the horse—the head, neck, shoulders and pelvis but not the legs—doesn’t pass between the flags in the first attempt, then 20 penalties will be awarded. Continuing on course without re-presenting will mean elimination, which is a change from 2018 when the rider incurred 50 penalties but was not eliminated as long as the horse attempted to jump the obstacle.
A new term, “missing a flag,” has been added, and it will incur 15 penalties. Article 549.2, states: “A Horse is considered to have missed a flag (15 penalties) if the Horse jumps the dimension of the obstacle and the majority of the Horse’s body (as defined above) passes through the flags. This means that some part of the body is not inside the flags (e.g. one shoulder, or one shoulder and part of one hip).”
However, if the body of the horse goes through the flags, but not all the legs do, that’s still considered clear.
Additional language states that only official video will be allowed as evidence when determining which type of penalty a horse incurred.
For eventing dressage tests, the collective marks have been replaced with one score for the overall impression of athlete and horse, and this will have a coefficient of 2.
In pure show jumping, a series of rule changes passed that would require horses and riders to be checked by the event’s medical or veterinary service after a fall on any part of the competition grounds or in a competition arena before the pair can compete. If a rider or horse falls before going through the timers to start a round, the pair will not be permitted to start.
For dressage, a rule passed requiring that the FEI’s freestyle Degree Of Difficulty system be used at championships, World and Olympic Games, finals and Western European League World Cup qualifiers at Grand Prix. It may be used at other Grand Prix CDIs and CDIOs at the discretion of the organizer. Using this system, riders submit freestyle choreography prior to the show, and the program automatically determines the degree of difficulty mark based on the planned movements and the successful execution of those movements.
Also for dressage, the ground jury may now permit riders to wear a light waterproof jacket in bad weather, and if it’s very warm riders may ride without a jacket.
Just as SafeSport is a hot topic on a national level in the United States, the FEI implemented a new Safeguarding Policy Against Harassment and Abuse. The policy, which follows the International Olympic Committee Athlete Safeguarding toolkit, defines the forms of abuse: psychological, physical and sexual abuse, sexual harassment and neglect.
The FEI General Assembly voted to keep all current endurance rules in place and unchanged to give a new, temporary committee time “to conduct its in-depth review of the rules in order to identify the most effective way of bringing the discipline back to its original roots of endurance riding as opposed to endurance racing, with horse welfare and horsemanship at its core, while still maintaining the competitive aspect of the sport.”
Changes were made to the Equine Anti-Doping & Controlled Medications Regulations to include a mandatory and automatic provisional suspension for the trainer of a horse that tests positive for a banned substance in endurance. In specified substance cases, when an athlete receives a provisional suspension, so will the trainer, and if a trainer has a prior violation of the regulations, that trainer can be provisionally suspended even if the horse only tests positive for one controlled medication.
Current FEI President Ingmar De Vos ran unopposed for re-election and will serve a second four-year term. Both Sheikh Khalid Abdulla Al Khalifa and Mark Samuel were re-elected as vice presidents, so the executive board remains unchanged.