Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023

New Eventing Flag Rule Headlines FEI Rule Changes



At the Fédération Equestre Internationale General Assembly, held Nov. 16-19 in Moscow, a bevy of rule changes for the 2020 season were approved. First among them: an updated flag rule in eventing.

A new version of 549.2, the FEI’s rule regarding missing a flag on cross-country, was adopted after much back and forth throughout the year from various stakeholders. The new rule is as follows:

a) Clear (0 penalties): A horse is considered to have cleared the fence when the head, neck and points of both shoulders pass between the extremities of the obstacle as flagged. If a flag is dislodged, the hindquarters must jump the height of the solid part of the obstacle.
b) Missing a flag (15 penalties): A horse is considered to have missed a flag when the point of a shoulder fails to pass between the extremities of the obstacle as flagged. The head and neck must pass inside the extremities of the obstacle as flagged. If a flag is dislodged, the hindquarters must jump the height of the solid part of the obstacle.
c) Run-Out (20 penalties): A horse is considered to have run out if, having been presented at an obstacle on the course, it avoids it in such a way that the head, neck and point of either shoulder fail to pass between the extremities of the obstacle as flagged or the hindquarters have not jumped the height of the solid part of the obstacle. Continuing on course without re-presenting will incur elimination.

Frangible devices will now be required on certain cross-country fences at the top level. Next year open oxers, verticals or near verticals with open rails, the top rail on triple bars and gates where rail dimensions and weight fit the acceptable parameters of an FEI approved frangible device must be fitted with frangible devices at championships and four- and five-star events.

The rules addressing when yellow cards and recorded warnings are to be used have been updated. Recorded warnings are eventing specific, while yellow cards apply for the same offenses across disciplines. An individual who receives three or more recorded warnings within 24 months will be suspended for two months. Someone who receives two yellow cards in one year will be suspended for two months.

A rule passed to make it easier for an “A” categorized athlete to participate in a CCI5*-L aboard a horse that has five-star experience with another rider.

Double bridles may only be used in four-star and five-star competitions.

A rule was modified to clarify that an individual incurs 11 penalties for activating a frangible device only when the dimension of the fence is modified.

Additionally, the Eventing Committee reviewed the possibility of creating a CCI5*-S, and they’re now in the process of consulting about the concept with with national federations, organizers, athletes and all involved.

Dressage Changes
Only one set of individual medals and one set of team medals will be awarded at championships. Medals will be awarded for the team final (Grand Prix) and the individual final (Grand Prix freestyle). The Grand Prix Special will count as the second individual qualifier.


The dressage blood rule got a tweak as well. Fresh blood discovered on the horse during the test is still automatic elimination, as is fresh blood in the mouth or in the spur region after the test. However, if an FEI steward discovers fresh blood anywhere else on the horse’s body after the test the judge at C and the FEI veterinarian will consult on whether or not the horse is fit to continue.

Jumping Changes
A change to the jumping rules clarifies that if a rider falls off anywhere on the grounds he or she must be checked by the event’s medical service, and the horse must be cleared by the veterinary delegate.

CSIOs in North America may now invite additional individual athletes from Canada, Mexico and the United States. Due to geographical distances, there are not always enough athletes to fill these events.

For jumping, rowel spurs with discs with notched or serrated edges are not allowed anywhere on the showgrounds. Also, reins may not be configured in such a way as to make a running martingale function as a standing martingale.

Judges no longer must retire at the age of 70; that requirement has been replaced by a competency evaluation system.

The FEI Jumping Committee also tightened up requirements for earning a certificate of capability for world and continental championships.

The State Of Reining
In November 2018, the FEI terminated the cooperation agreement with the National Reining Horse Association, putting reining’s future as an FEI sport in jeopardy. The two organizations butted heads over medication regulations and age-restricted classes. In June 2019, the FEI board proposed removing reining as an FEI discipline. Reining’s status was still in limbo as of October, but on Nov. 13, the NRHA signed a new Memorandum of Understanding, and on Nov. 19, the FEI General Assembly voted to keep reining as an FEI discipline. The FEI will now reach out to the American Quarter Horse Association to agree to terms.

Endurance Upheaval
The endurance rules received a complete makeover for 2020, with a completely revised chapter in the rulebook with new structure and wording. Many of the changes were from the Endurance Temporary Committee, which presented 16 recommendations at the FEI Sports Forum last April and reviewed the results of surveys conducted by the True Endurance International Riders Association. The rules were voted in by an overwhelming majority and will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Capped speeds and completion percentage now figure heavily for qualifications from CEI1* to championships. Free speed is only allowed for those who have achieved a completion rate of 66% or better. Also, horse and athlete must qualify as a combination for championships. This proposed system aims to increase the level of the riding skills of the athletes, improve horses’ longevity, protect the welfare of the horse by requiring good completion rates before they are allowed to progress, and reduce the risks associated with excessive speed.

Rules passed addressing loop length and minimum number of loops in order to reduce horse welfare risks associated with excessive speed.


Sanctions were increased for removing a horse from the field of play without presentation to the veterinary commission or the permitted treating veterinarians.

Heart rate parameters have been adjusted to 64 beats per minute in a presentation time of 15 minutes at all vet gates, 64 bpm in 20 minutes at the final horse inspection.

Another change limited the number of crew to three people in crew areas, reinforcing the responsibility of the athlete to ride his or her horse according to the conditions without excessive reliance on the crew.

Mandatory out of competition periods have been increased.

Starters are now limited to 200 per class, with a maximum of 400 starters per day to ensure officials can control the ride effectively and safely.

Rider minimum weight is decreased to 70 kilograms at championships and senior CEI2* and 3* events.

Registered trainers must be at least 18, may not be substituted after the date of definitive entries, and if a horse has a change of registered trainer, the horse may not compete for 30 days.

Officials will now rotate, and the FEI may make direct appointment of officials in certain circumstances. The president of the ground jury and the foreign judge will submit official reports to the FEI. The new FEI education system for endurance officials specifies the officials required for events, star level, role, appointments and the ratio of officials to starters.

Unlike the other FEI disciplines, until now endurance hasn’t addressed blood on the horse. A new rule specifies that if a horse has blood visible on it while on the field of play he must be examined by a panel of three veterinarians.




Follow us on


Copyright © 2023 The Chronicle of the Horse