With most international championships canceled and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games postponed, the Fédération Equestre Internationale has experienced a year like no other due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally scheduled for Johannesburg, South Africa, the FEI General Assembly took place online, from Nov. 13 -23. FEI officials are projecting a loss of about $9 million for the organization, although they stressed that, thanks to reserves, this won’t immediately threaten the existence of the FEI.
“Our main priority at the FEI has been to mitigate the effects and find solutions to protect our community and our sport, so that we can not only pick up where we left off, but also learn for the future,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos from the FEI’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
De Vos noted the FEI was quick to act when the pandemic hit and has passed more than 150 event- and sport-related COVID-19 resolutions, which he acknowledged were not to the liking of all.
“In this exercise, we always have to find a balance between needs for flexibility while still preserving the integrity of our sport and providing a level playing field,” he said. “We were and still will be faced with challenges we never imagined. And in a year where compromise, change and uncertainty have been the norm, I believe, as a community, we have responded with great resilience and perseverance.”
As De Vos concluded his opening address, he said, “A major crisis requires a major response, which in itself requires good governance and a true passion to overcome any obstacles in the way. This is the strength of our community and the building blocks to our future. I have been profoundly impressed by the resilience of the equestrian community when faced with adversity.”
Read on for a wrap-up of the major rule changes and news from the General Assembly.
• Following a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding two national endurance events in January and February 2020 that should have been held as international events due to the number of foreign athletes that participated, the FEI had suspended the United Arab Emirates national federation from all disciplines until Dec. 31, 2020. As of Jan. 1, all UAE equestrian disciplines can return to competition.
On Nov. 17, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the FEI’s ruling. The UAE’s endurance federation will be suspended through March 31, 2021.
• The Veterinary Committee has defined “Sensory Hairs” as the “Hard hairs located on the Horse’s muzzle and around its eyes, also known as ‘whiskers’ that are used for sensation,” and prohibited trimming or removing those hairs for any reason other than a veterinary purpose. The penalty for doing so would be disqualification.
• The Pan Ams will continue as a combination of small and large tour classes for 2023 in Santiago, Chile, and will transition to all Grand Prix for the 2027 Games.
• The new short Grand Prix test will be introduced in the 2021/2022 World Cup season, including the Final. The technical committee believes the tests to be of the same difficulty as the current Grand Prix test, so the shortened test will count for qualifying scores and ranking points.
• Despite a last-minute petition by some of the world’s top dressage riders, helmets will be mandatory whenever a rider is mounted during CDI competitions starting in January. The petition that circulated in October was not submitted in time for the rule change deadline in March, so top hats will not be permitted. The rule also applies to eventing dressage.
Show Jumping News
• Rowel spurs with discs that have notched or serrated edges are not allowed anywhere on competition grounds. Rowel spurs with smooth discs are allowed.
• The Eventing Risk Management Group reported that the total number of falls are stable because of the low number of starters this year, which impacted the statistics. Horse falls have decreased from 1.41% in 2015 to 1.36% in 2019. There were 26 rotational falls in 2019, and that percentage dropped from .31% in 2010 to .12% in 2019.
Of 1,166 falls reported for 2019, 54 were cross-country falls on the flat (4.63%), 109 were in show jumping (9.35%), one was in dressage (0.09%) and 72 were in the warm-up (6.17%).
At all levels of competition, non-categorized athletes incurred the highest number of falls, and the ERMG determined that was likely due to lack of training and/or adequate cross-country education.
The provisional 2020 data from the end of July shows a total fall rate of 3.67% (128 falls for 3,690 starters). The significant decrease of total falls from 5.57% in 2019 may be linked to the lack of five-star competitions, and this number may change when the remainder of the 2020 competitions are entered in the database.
• All cases of dangerous riding incur a recorded warning. In addition, the rider may receive either 25 penalties or be eliminated. A “serious case of dangerous riding” has also been included as abuse of horse in section 526.1.
• The new Maryland Five-Star has been given five years on the FEI Calendar and will be reviewed after three years.
You can watch the meeting here.