On Aug. 11, the Fédération Equestre Internationale published its updated list of eventing yellow (warning) card recipients online. Since the end of April, three U.S. riders and three Canadians have been issued yellow cards, and four others have been given official verbal warnings. The majority of disciplinary actions came at The Event at Rebecca Farm, July 21-24, in Kalispell, Mont.
Verbal warnings went to Michelle Meacher (dangerous riding—continuing after three refusals), Bryn Byer (missing turn in numerical order of horse inspection) and Brynn Meuchel (excessive use of whip). Cali Eden received a yellow card for continuing after three refusals.
Tamra Smith, Murietta, Calif., was issued a yellow card for incorrect behavior—abuse of an official (FEI steward Margie Molloy), by chief steward Sally O’Connor. Smith was working in her capacity as trainer to CIC*** rider Jordan Linstedt when the conflict occurred.
“My rider jumped the last fence, and her horse coughed, and blood started coming out of his nose,” said Smith. “Jordan had no idea, but you could see it from the finish, so we all coordinated and got ready for her, and one of the FEI veterinarians, who’s also my personal vet at home, was right there. So I said, ‘Emily [Sandler-Burtness], Jack’s bleeding, get a towel.’ ”
However, when Linstedt crossed the finish line and her crew started attending to her horse, Tullibards Hawkwind, Molloy told Smith she was not allowed to touch the animal.
“I wanted to make sure he wasn’t hemorrhaging, and there were a ton of spectators around, so you want to get blood cleaned up as soon as possible,” Smith said. “So I ran after Jack, but she kept screaming at me that I couldn’t touch him. I looked at her like she was crazy, and finally I yelled back at her, ‘Margie, I can touch this horse, and I am touching him.’ She must have thought it was a rule.”
Smith said that Molloy then approached O’Connor, who confirmed that there was no rule prohibiting Smith from assisting her student’s horse. Smith later texted Molloy, who she considers a close friend, to apologize for shouting, and Molloy in turn shared the text with O’Connor.
“So Sally said, ‘I have proof you yelled at an official, and if you’re going to be a top professional, you can’t do that, so I’m giving you a yellow card,’ ” Smith said. “Margie must have just thought we were trying to hide the blood. I went to the vets afterward and asked if they thought that’s what we’d been trying to do, and they said, ‘Absolutely not.’ It was really sad that it happened, because it shouldn’t have. I think if it had been a technical delegate there, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Smith noted that the incident is now drawing attention to a petition to remove stewards’ authority to issue yellow cards. There’s no official rule proposal yet, but language is being drafted.
“I think we’ve trained the stewards to start acting as policemen—it’s almost like they feel we’re cheating,” Smith said. “Instead of looking out for the welfare of the horse, they’re more concerned with catching people in the act of doing something wrong.”
In addition to Smith’s incident, three other upper level professionals were given yellow cards since April: Darren Chiacchia (dangerous riding—continuing after three refusals) at the Chattahoochee Hills CIC** (Ga.); Jessica Phoenix (dangerous riding—too fast/out of control) at the Jersey Fresh CCI** (N.J.); and Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch (dangerous riding—not stopping for red flag) at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI**** (England).