The latest Fédération Equestre Internationale yellow card list was released on Nov. 2, and two U.S. riders were penalized at the Virginia Horse Trials, held Oct. 26-30 in Lexington.
Missy Miller, Gulf Shores, Ala., received two yellow cards, and as a result she was automatically suspended for two months. Her suspension will end Jan. 1, 2017.
Miller is listed as receiving a yellow card on Limited Edition and Van Goettsching in the CCI*, but she said the infractions were listed backwards on the FEI website.
She received a yellow card for abuse of horse/noseband too tight on Van Goettsching, a 10-year-old German Warmblood (Vivus—Farameh, Carpalo).
“I understand the officials are doing their jobs and everything,” said Miller. “I’ve ridden in the same noseband all year. I’ve never had anybody comment on it before at several of the FEI competitions where I’ve had successful results.”
The FEI clarifies the tightness of nosebands in its frequently asked questions document for eventing tack, equipment and dress.
“FEI Stewards of all disciplines to pay particular attention to ensure that nosebands are not overtightened,” it states. “It must be possible to place at least one finger between the horse’s cheek and the noseband. Nosebands must never be used in such a way that they interfere with a horse’s breathing.
“This check can be carried out at any time the steward feels that a noseband appears to be too tight (preferably after the test); if the steward carrying out this check finds the noseband is too tight, the steward must ask the groom to loosen the noseband so that one finger can fit between the noseband and the cheek of the horse. If it happens again the rider should receive a yellow card for not following the instruction of the steward,” the document continues.
Christian Landolt, president of the ground jury for the CCI* at the Virginia Horse Trials, said that the chief FEI steward at the VHT, Andrea Webb, asked Miller to loosen her noseband in the warm-up ring.
“At the tack inspection following her test, the noseband had not been loosened contrary to agreement, and once undone there was a strong imprint of the noseband on the horse’s skin thus having caused discomfort to her horse,” said Landolt in an emailed response.
Miller, 27, received a yellow card for abuse of horse/slapping horse on the head with Limited Edition, an 8-year-old Oldenburg mare (Licotus—Delta Queen, Curacao).
“I understand they were doing their jobs in the 10-minute box, but Limited Edition is a big mare. She’d just come off cross-country, and [in the] heat of the moment she was running a lot of people over,” Miller said. “They saw me raise my hand at her. I actually didn’t strike her, but if you ever saw the mare, she’s big and powerful, and you know how horses are when they come off cross-country.
“I think the officials are pretty proactive right now with everything else going on in the world, so you have to respect their decisions at the end of the day. They’re just doing their jobs like we all are,” she continued. “I went in and was super apologetic. As a professional, we’re all trying to make it in this sport. I do understand where they’re coming from. We don’t always agree, but we have to work together because this sport, we all need to make it our livelihood. We all love it, and we all want the same outcome at the end of the day. It’s not the ending to the season anybody would want, but my horses are all happy and healthy hanging out in the field for a couple of weeks.”
Landolt also responded to Miller’s second yellow card.
“The second yellow card was the consequence of Missy hitting her horse on the head twice at the end of cross-country venting her temper following an unsuccessful performance,” he said. “This is not acceptable behavior of a rider, and it is also the riders’ responsibility to give and maintain a good picture for our sport.
“Both incidents were dealt with according to the FEI procedures whereby a hearing took place to allow Missy and a witness to put their point across before the ground [jury] deliberated and made a decision on the sanction,” he continued. “It is not [an] enjoyable part of the ground jury’s duties to hand over sanctions, however when riders ignore the rules and do not take notice of advice given by officials we sadly need to intervene. We then most certainly must intervene when the welfare of the horses is at stake—this is rule No. 1 of the FEI for all riders and officials to follow and apply.”
Sara Kozumplik Murphy received a yellow card on L’Alezane in the CIC** for non-compliance with applicable sport rules. She explained that she was wearing spurs that rotated horizontally, which are not allowed.
“It’s my fault, and I just didn’t know it,” said Murphy. “It wasn’t intentional. They chose not to eliminate me because it was pretty clear I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. They’re legal in pure show jumping. The spurs that I use for FEI [eventing] are the exact same thing except they roll up and down, and I just grabbed my husband’s [Brian Murphy’s] spurs instead of mine because they’re legal in show jumping.
“The chief FEI steward was really nice and explained it all to me and was really great,” she added.
Murphy, 37, Berryville, Va., withdrew both L’Alezane, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood cross (Monte Carlo—French Step) mare, and Rubens D’Ysieux from the CIC** because she said she was discouraged about receiving the yellow card.
“I love Virginia, and I don’t pull horses from FEI competitions lightly,” she said. “It’s a lot of money and time to do them. I was disheartened over the yellow card thing and felt the environment wasn’t great for me, so I withdrew. I know it’s not the end of the world to get a card, but for me it was gut wrenching, and I didn’t sleep at all that night. It wasn’t imperative for me to run that event, and my heart wasn’t in it, so I withdrew the FEI horses.”