FEI Tightens Grip on Horse Sports–Axing Associate Members, Limiting non-FEI Series, Suspending Participants in Unsanctioned Events

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ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 8–The International Equestrian Federation’s control of horse sports was tightened when the organization’s ruling General Assembly agreed Thursday to eliminate associate members, limit the number of non-FEI series and suspend participants in events not sanctioned by the FEI.

The assembly also adopted a new rule that clarifies procedures for dealing with blood visible on a dressage horse in competition.

The FEI had proposed to the General Assembly that is made up of the 133 membe national federations that the associate member groups–four of them represent dressage riders, trainers, organizers and officials–should be replaced by another still to be worked out relationship.

“With the changing landscape of the FEI and the growth of equestrian sport, it was important for the FEI to develop a system for bespoke and effective interaction with its key stakeholders,” the FEI said after the assembly agreed to scrap associate membership.

“Individual Memorandums of Understanding with the Athletes’ Clubs and other key stakeholder groups that better suit their needs are being put in place. The Associate Members do not lose any rights under this new system, they have gained increased rights, and will still be able to attend the GA.”

The FEI said it had “become increasingly apparent that the Associate Member concept is not working effectively as there were no clear criteria for becoming an FEI associate member nor were there established obligations for the FEI to deliver to its associate members. In addition, the Associate Members were so diverse and their needs so different from one another that it was not efficient to create rules and structures to apply to all Associate Members under one umbrella.”

Therefore, it said, the GA approved removing the associate membership category and replacing it with what the FEI “considers to be a more constructive formula for interacting with its stakeholders through the direct election of Athletes, recognition of Continental Associations, and Memorandums of Understanding with the Athletes Clubs and other key stakeholder groups.”

Further, athletes’ representative on FEI technical committees–such as the Dressage Committee–will be elected by online vote by the registered athletes in each discipline.

“This will ensure a much higher representation from the athletes,” the FEI said.

Series and events not affiliated to the FEI–series of this type include the World Dressage Masters and the Global Champions Tour for jumpers–will be limited so as “to have a well structured calendar, to avoid date clashes and to manage athlete horse power properly to protect the welfare of the horse.”

And the number of competitions that count for a series will be limited, the FEI said, “to guarantee an open market and to avoid closed shops.

“Athletes and officials will no longer be permitted to participate in both sanctioned and unsanctioned events.

“If an athlete, horse or an FEI official participates in a non-sanctioned event, such person or horse will be prohibited from participating in any sanctioned events, both international and national, for a
period of six months thereafter. An unsanctioned event is an event that is not on the FEI calendar and is not authorized by a National Federation.”

The FEI said in response to a question from dressage-news.com that sanctions will not apply to participation in exhibitions such as a planned Global Dressage Festival event in Wellington, Florida, which riders will be invited to ride to music by a live orchestra during the coming winter circuit.

“The FEI governs the sport and the development of the sport, not exhibitions, and we embrace anything that enhances our sport,” an FEI spokesperson said.

The new blood rule was developed by the dressage and veterinary committees to replace what had been common practise but was not in writing in the dressage rules.

The rule:

“Bleeding: If the Judge at C suspects fresh blood anywhere on the horse during the test, he will stop the horse to check for blood. If the horse shows fresh blood, it will be eliminated. The elimination is final. If the Judge through examination clarifies that the horse has no fresh blood, the horse may resume and finish its test.

“If the horse is eliminated pursuant to the above, or if the horse is injured during the test and starts bleeding after finishing the test, it should be examined by an FEI Veterinarian prior to the next Competition to determine if it is fit to continue in the Event the following day(s). The decision of the FEI Veterinarian is not subject to appeal.”

Use of the Yellow Warning Card system will be used to enforce mandatory use of protective headgear except for senior riders in FEI-level classes who can still wear top hats, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

A Yellow Warning Card will issued to a rider who is not wearing a properly fastened helmet. The yellow card rule provides for automatic suspension for six months after receiving two cards.

The FEI said that a review has already begun of both qualification procedures and the format of dressage at the Olympics following the London Games in which a record number of 23 nations and 11 teams took part. The FEI has already scrapped a rule that allowed countries outside Europe from using only two foreign judges instead of three at CDI3* qualifying events. There were widespread complaints over the break of three days between the Grand Prix and the Special that were the two phses of the team competition.

The two issues will be discussed at the FEI Sports Forum next April.

A Pan American Games test event organized for the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington in April was also reviewed.

Teams from the Americas–but which can include non-American combinations in an open draw–can be made up of both small and big tour horses and riders.

The aim is to raise the competition level at the Pan Ams–the world’s largest multi-sport event after the Olympics–to big tour from the current small tour in time for the next Games in Toronto in 2015. The Pan Ams are a qualifying event for the subsequent Olympics the next one to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Other issues affecting dressage:

–In 2013 all FEI dressage judges not fulfilling criteria to maintain their status for will be removed from the FEI Officials list. The FEI has already said as many as 20 per cent of judges could lose their license;

–Extra education initiatives will be taken in 2013 to meet requests from numerous national federations to improve the standard of officials at national level;

–The introduction in 2011 of half-marks and a panel of seven judges at top FEI events will be evaluated in coming months;

–A Freestyle test for the increasingly popular Under-25 category will be introduced Jan. 1, 2013, and

–The Olympic Grand Prix Special Test is being canned to be replaced by the version previously in use.