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LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Apr. 15–The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Bureau on Thursday gave its unanimous approval to new Stewards’ guidelines on warm-up techniques produced by a working group formed after the round-table conference held two months ago which was an update dealing with so-called hyperflexion.

The new guidelines to be implemented on May 15 include a key stipulation that all unacceptable training methods and techniques must be stopped immediately.

“The Working Group was also insistent that abuse of the horse should be avoided and, in particular, stressing the horse, aggressive riding and inflicting pain and/or discomfort on the horse must be prevented,” the FEI Bureau said.

The current guidelines for FEI Stewards already include instructions covering aggressive riding, but the Working Group created a new Annex (XIII) that includes clear instructions on action to be taken if necessary relating to flexion of the horse’s neck during pre- and post-competition training. The complete report of the working group is available by clicking HERE. The annex, which was added to the FEI Manual for Dressage Stewards, can be viewed HERE. Annex XIII: Pre- and Post Competition training techniques; position of the horse’s head, and stretching.

The working group comprised: Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman who was chairman; Richard Davison of Great Britain, Rider/Trainer; John P. Roche of Ireland, FEI Director Jumping/Stewarding; Jacques Van Daele of Belgium, FEI Honorary Dressage Steward General/Judge; Wolfram Wittig of Germany, Trainer, and Trond Asmyr of Norway, FEI Dressage and Para Equestrian Dressage Director/Judge. Input was also received from Dr. Gerd Heuschmann and Sjef Janssen and from the FEI Jumping Committee.

The key initiatives in the new guidelines are:

* Movements which involve having the horse’s head and neck carriage in a sustained or fixed position should only be performed for periods not exceeding approximately 10 minutes without change (diagrams defining the head and neck positions will be provided to Stewards);

* No single neck position should be maintained which may lead to tiredness or stress, and

* The rider is not permitted to use rough, or abrupt aids or apply constant unyielding pressure on the horse’s mouth through a fixed arm and hand position

The guidelines state that it is the steward’s responsibility to ensure that riders respect the above procedures and intervene if required. The steward will intervene should he/she observe:

-Neck stretching achieved through forced or aggressive riding;

-The use of extreme flexion if it does not comply with the above;

-A rider deliberately maintaining a sustained fixed head and neck carriage longer than approximately 10 minutes, and

-If the horse is in a state of general stress and/or fatigue.

The steward may also ask the rider to walk for a certain period in situations where the rider’s stress may cause undesired riding.

Only in exceptional circumstances and with the permission of the Chief Steward, may a pre-competition training session exceed one hour. There should be at least one hour break between any training/warm-up periods.

Repetition of movements carried out in the practice arena, post-competition, may not exceed a period of 10 minutes.

All training sessions, including pre-competition warm-up, may only be performed in the official training arena while under the supervision of stewards. Use of a training arena outside the official training period, and/or in an unsupervised arena, may at the discretion of the Ground Jury lead to the rider’s disqualification.

The Chief Steward must be present in the training arena during pre-competition training and for the duration of the competition be in a position to observe the training arena at events where numerous training arenas are in use or appoint a suitable deputy.

The introduction of CCTV for selected events is recommended in order to provide a means for monitoring the practice arena. A new group should be established specifically for the purpose of investigating cases which occur during the course of an event but could not be dealt with, for whatever reason, during the event.

A new education and assessment system for stewards will ensure consistency and a high standard of stewarding.

National Federations will be asked to send the new guidelines to all their Stewards immediately to prepare for implementation on May 15. If modifications to the guidelines are required, these will be initiated by a Council of Horsemen, which will be set up specifically for this purpose.

“Everyone in the FEI has horse welfare at heart and these new guidelines will help the Stewards be more proactive, giving them the authority to do their job and prevent abuse in all disciplines,” Working Group Chair Frank Kemperman said. “A huge amount of work has gone into producing these guidelines so it is pleasing that the Bureau has given them unanimous approval. The principle on which these guidelines are based is respect for the horse, but also for the Stewards, who do a difficult job with great dedication.”
The annex, which was added to the FEI Manual for Dressage Stewards, can be viewed HERE. (Annex XIII: Pre and Post Competition training techniques – position of the horse’s head – stretching)