U.S. Eventers Fall Afoul Of New FEI Blood And Whip Use Rules

Apr 19, 2019 - 10:15 AM

U.S. event riders Tamra Smith, Jacob Fletcher and Hannah Sue Burnett appeared on the Fédération Equestre Internationale yellow card and official warning list that was updated on April 18.

Smith received a warning for “incorrect behavior/starting show jumping without seeking veterinary advice for blood in the mouth” while competing MaiBlume in the CCI3*-S at the Galway Downs Horse Trials in Temecula, California, held March 29-31.

“MaiBlume was being longed by one of the girls who works for me, so I could just get on and start jumping since I was riding several in the division,” Smith said. “When I was trotting around the girls noticed she had some dried blood on the edge of her lip. I stopped; we looked all around her mouth and didn’t notice any injury or fresh blood, so we continued to warm up for competition.”

Smith noted the mare goes in a plain snaffle with a loose noseband.

“After I entered the show jumping ring and started jumping, she must have bit the area that she opened up before because when I came out of the ring there was blood in her mouth,” Smith said. “The TD and vet delegate were present to examine her mouth, and no one could find the source of where the blood was coming from.”

The FEI General Assembly voted to change the rules regarding blood in 2018, and the new language provides specific guidelines for how to deal with instances of blood in each phase.

For show jumping, the rule states that horses with blood on the flanks or mouth will be eliminated. However, it also states: “In minor cases of blood, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, Officials may authorize the rinsing or wiping of the mouth and allow the Athlete to continue; any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in Elimination (refer article 241). For all minor cases of blood induced by the Athlete in the mouth or related to spurs a Recorded Warning will be issued by the Ground Jury after providing the athlete the opportunity to have a hearing.”

The ground jury discussed the blood with Smith and issued an official warning because she had not reported the dried blood prior to competing.

“After speaking with the ground jury it was brought to my attention that with the new blood rule, we as competitors have to be very diligent in communication with the stewards and veterinarian delegate to assure the welfare of the horse is held at the highest regard,” Smith said. “I think the new policy of recorded warnings are smart. It helps everyone to understand each horse’s situation and keeps an open line of communication between the competitor and officials. Because at the end of the day it is our mutual goal to protect our horses and our sport.”

Jacob Fletcher was given a warning at the Chattahoochee Horse Trials in Fairburn, Georgia, April 5-7, for “abuse of horse/excessive use of whip.” Fletcher was riding 501 Mischief Managed in the CCI3*-S division and used his whip three times on the approach to one fence. Under the amended rule, a rider can only use their stick twice in one instance.

“It was in the three-star, and I was coming to an intimidating jump for a young three-star horse,” Fletcher said. “I was eager about ‘Albus’ having a positive first experience over a tiger trap. The rule is crystal clear, and I respect that. I apologized to the ground jury.

“I thought I used the stick only twice,” Fletcher continued. “And after seeing how easily this mistake happened to me, I do feel for those riders at [the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L] and [the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI5*-L (England)] who are focused on getting their horses around those big courses safely and are having to think about counting the number of times they go to the stick instead of focusing all of their feel and instincts on the very tough task in front of them. I take a lot of pride in taking good care of my horses and would never do something to hurt them, and I will be very mindful of new rules going forward.”

Hannah Sue Burnett received a yellow card at The Fork Horse Trials in Tryon, North Carolina, on April 3-7, for “excessive use of whip/abuse of horse,” while riding Lukeswell in the CCI4*-S. Burnett declined to comment on the incident.

In addition to the three eventers, one U.S. show jumper was added to the list as well: Chris Cawley was given a yellow card for “incorrect behavior” at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. Cawley declined to comment.

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