Henk Rottinghuis Offers “Fresh Approach” to Deal With “Unrest” in FEI

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Henk Rottinghuis
Henk Rottinghuis

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Henk Rottinghuis has highlighted “unrest” over the current role of the International Equestrian Federation of which he wants to become president to lead a fresh approach to developing horse sportS around the world.

Henk Rottinghuis released his campaign platform Wednesday after a 100-day “Listening Program” by the Dutch businessman and equestrian who is credited with uniting a splintered Netherlands horse community into a single and powerful national federation. For the full 13-page document, click here: Henk Rottinghuis 100-day Listening Programme Analysis – A Fresh Approach to Create a Space for the Sport

He is running to replace Princess Haya as president when representatives of the 133 member nations meet as a General Assembly in Taipei in November. Haya has declared her intention to seek a second four-year term. Sven Holmberg of Sweden, the current FEI 1st Vice President, has also announced his candidacy. Although two Europeans are running for the top spot, Europe represents less than one-third of the membership roster.

Rottinghuis said that since announcing his candidacy, “I have found that there is a high dissatisfaction among riders, organizers and National Federations with the way things are currently handled. And I am aware that people in the field have told me that they are tired of surprises and there are far too many of them, which damages the sport.

“It is also clear that big differences in needs of Member Federations have led to very different and sometimes contradictory requirements and demands on the FEI. I do not think this is something we need necessarily be worried about in a worldwide community like the FEI, as long as we respect our differences, take the trouble to understand each other and make an effort to bridge the gaps that exist.

“We don’t have to pretend to be one happy family when, in reality, we are dealing with the challenges faced by a growing global sport that is maturing in the 21st century. As long as we discuss our aspirations and challenges on that basis, I feel we can overcome internal differences and build upon what has been achieved so far.”

Huge passion and enthusiasm and a unique camaraderie were cited by Rottinghuis as hallmarks of horse sports, regardless of discipline. He listed concerns expressed widely within and without horse sports, but did not cite specifics such as the divisive debate over non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs.

The document said:

“Federations feel the FEI does not take their local circumstances and conditions into account. It does not always stand for the needs of the NFs.

“The FEI is not meeting the professional standards organizers and riders require from them.

“The FEI has lost its image and authority in many matters due to self-inflicted incidents.

“Europe is perceived as too dominant and yet Europe feels its specific needs (are) not met, which leads to unjustified and mutual mistrust. We lack a global unity with respect for diversity.

“There are too many rules and too many new initiatives being introduced into the sport at the same time and before we have implemented and finished the ones at hand.”

On regulation of the sport he cited several comments, including, “We need more sport and fewer rules” and “There is a ‘gotcha’ mentality.”

His analysis was: Too many surprises and too many rules.

“The rules do not cater to the needs of many smaller federations particularly outside Europe and North America.

“The proliferation of events within the sport increases the need for more officials, as does the introduction of more rules.

“There is a lot of unrest within the sport among riders, organizers and officials, since people in the field are constantly being confronted with surprises.

“Rules are being introduced simply as a reaction to incidents within the sport, or for the sake of political correctness.

“Rules are not always tested on practicality and timeliness.

“There are no clear warnings ahead of changes to the clean sport policy, which catches riders unaware

“There is too little room for common sense in the sport.

“Small and start-up event organizers find the FEI’s rules governing these events are increasingly complex and a burden.”

On appeal of the sport, an issue central to participants as it affects prize money and quality of events and to spectators as it impacts the credibility and understanding of the sport, Rottinghuis called for more support and better integration.

“Riders and organizers expect more professional support in their effort to be economically viable,” he wrote.

“The FEI does not adapt fast enough to the modern needs of the sport and of the national federations.

“There is no real link between the development of the sport and the needs of the modern media.

“Commercial FEI products (like series, etc.) are not well integrated into the sport or adapted to meet the needs of those in the field (riders and organizers).

“Some non-Olympic disciplines question the support of the FEI in developing their discipline.

“The FEI is not cooperative when approached by those seeking to introduce private commercial initiatives into the sport.

“There is too big a gap between the levels of the sport in some disciplines and between developed and developing nations.

“The FEI does not make the most of connecting and communicating with the millions of grass roots riders and horse lovers around the world.”