Friday, Jun. 9, 2023

Seeking The Fairest Solution

In The Forum, horsemen are invited to express their views and offer constructive criticism on any topic relevant to working with and enjoying horses. The opinions expressed by the writers are entirely their own and not necessarily those of The Chronicle of the Horse.
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In The Forum, horsemen are invited to express their views and offer constructive criticism on any topic relevant to working with and enjoying horses. The opinions expressed by the writers are entirely their own and not necessarily those of The Chronicle of the Horse.

In response to Kat Netzler’s Commentary, “Sometimes Justice Just Isn’t Fair,” (Oct. 12, p. 4), I would like to offer a clarification of two issues she raised in response to Jennie Brannigan, whose two wins at the American Eventing Championships (Sept. 28, p. 92) were protested after she was found to be overqualified for the divisions in which she competed.

First, no placings were “revoked,” no “statue ignored,” and no rule utilized in the changes made to the final standings of the Wellpride AEC. All changes of placings to hors concours were made voluntarily by the competitors involved, in the spirit of sportsmanship, after they realized that they had entered the incorrect divisions.

With regard to the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s rules for competition, Ms. Netzler quoted: “Under section EV117: Inquiries, Protests and Appeals, the 2007 USEA Rulebook states that protests ‘against the eligibility of a horse or a competitor’ may be lodged ‘not later than one hour before the start of the
relevant competition.’ ”

It should first be pointed out that the “USEA Rulebook” is actually the “USEF Rulebook.” All rules are made by the USEF, the national governing body for equestrian sport in the United States, and all rule enforcement is also handled by the USEF.

As a courtesy, each year the USEA publishes an eventing-specific USEF Rules For Eventing for its members.

While no rules were utilized in the changes to the standings, I feel that this rule should be addressed to prevent misunderstandings for competitors in the future.

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The quoted section of EV117 is important, but more than just that quoted section can apply to issues of eligibility to compete.

According to Malcolm Hook, the USEA vice president of competitions, these rules are more complex than they seem.

“Most eventers view the Inquiry/Protest process as something that begins and ends at a competition,” said Hook. “For the most part, this is true.”

Hook noted that Inquiries/Protests regarding faults at obstacles, scoring/timing errors, eligibility of a horse or rider, etc., are indeed matters that are handled by the officials under EV117, and they are resolved by the end of the competition. The rule assigns time limits for types of protests and, at a competition, these time limits are strictly applied.

“There are, however, two instances in which a protest may extend past the end of a competition,” he explained. “The first is part of EV117. The last subsection of the rule explains the procedure for protesting a decision of the Appeal Committee and extends the deadline to 15 days after the initial decision.

“In such a case, the USEF Hearing Committee conducts an investigation to determine whether the rules were properly interpreted and applied,” Hook continued. “However, the big and important exception to the deadlines for protest comes under the protest/charge provisions of Chapter 6 of the USEF General Rules. These procedures apply at every USEF recognized or endorsed competition and override any breed or discipline rules.”

Hook noted that this rule exists to protect the rights of all USEF members from violations or misapplications of the rules and applies not just to the specific breed or discipline rules but also to violations of the General Rules.

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He added that GR603 (protests) describes the method and timelines by which an individual member
(with standing) may protest an alleged rule violation at a competition. Normally the deadline is 10 days after the last day of competition. GR604 (charges) is more open ended and defines the deadline for submission of a charge as: “…within a reasonable time.”

Hook added that in the case of an issue of eligibility to compete—which is a part of the Entry Agreement that each competitor signs and is explained in Chapter 15 or the General Rules—as a part of that agreement, the competitor attests that: “I represent that I am eligible to enter and/or participate under the rules, and every horse I am entering is eligible as entered.”

Violation of this representation can subject competitors to the provisions of GRs 603 and 604. Regarding qualifications for the AEC, these are available on the USEA website, and have been since the event’s inception four years ago.

For those people who have further questions, please call or e-mail the USEA office. That said, in the final analysis it’s the competitors who have the responsibility to enter the correct divisions, and more than 99 percent of the time this has been the case.

Unfortunately mistakes happen—no person or organization is immune from error—and when those errors occur, we then work together to find the fairest solution.

With the cooperation of the USEA, the competition management, and the competitors, hopefully this type of situation will be avoided in the future.

In the meantime, the staff and board of the USEA will continue to build the AEC into a true destination event, and we look forward to watching thousands more of our members gallop through the finish flags!

Jo Whitehouse is the U.S. Eventing Association chief executive officer.

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