FEI Reverses Course Partially to Allow Ecuador Junior & Young Riders to Compete in Wellington Jumper Nations Cups
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The International Equestrian Federation reversed course–partially–and allowed junior and young rider jumper riders from Ecuador to compete under the FEI flag in an historic series of Nations Cups in Wellington, Florida this week.
The change in the FEI position that initially led to the riders being blocked from paticipating in the event at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center came from the Executive Board of the body that governs global horse sports and is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
However, it came too late for the riders to bring their own horses and five of nine riders that were initially scheduled to ride dropped out. The three Junior and one Young Riders who were flown to Florida for the event this week will ride mounts borrowed from other athletes.
And although the Nations Cups are based on teams, the Ecuadoran riders are allowed to compete only as individuals.
Ingmar De Vos, FEI Secretary General, told dressage-news.com the FEI Executive Board re-evaluated the situation and decided:
“The suspension of the Ecuador National Federation is still in effect, but as the Executive Board does not want the athletes to suffer as a result of governance issues, the FEI has put in place a system that will allow athletes to compete under the FEI flag until the situation has been resolved.”
The FEI took its initial position when as many as 40 international federations agreed to block Ecuadoran athletes from competing in international events because of alleged interference in sports governance issues by the Ecuador Sports Minister.
Nine Ecuadoran riders and their horses were on the way to Florida to compete in an historic staging of four Nations Cups at the same time but were blocked by the FEI from participating.
The riders were among 47 being flown from several Latin American nations on a flight chartered by Hollow Creek Farm of Aiken, South Carolina, and owned by Alejandro Andrade of Venezuela. Hollow Creek is funding the entire series for Children, Junior and Young Riders.
They were to compete in the Nations Cups that for the first time in history will be staged simultaneously for children, juniors, young riders and seniors to be held at PBIEC.
Riders from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela as well as Canada and the United States were to participate.
However, the riders were on their way to the airport in Quito, Euador with their horses when they were informed that the FEI had joined other international federations in preventing Ecuadoran athletes in all sports from participating in official sanctioned events because of a dispute with the Ecuadoran government.
Hollow Creek Farm expressed disappointment that the youngsters were caught in the dispute.
Efforts were made to arrange another charter flight to bring the Ecuadoran horse and rider combinations to Florida to share in the Nations Cup experience, but with time running out only four riders and no horses were able to make it to Wellington.
“We totally adhere to the IOC principles in terms of policy safeguarding the autonomy of sport globally and we are following the IOC’s recommendations and actions in this regard.
“The ECU NF (Ecuador National Federation) was informed last month that they could not register athletes or horses, or enter them for international events, but sent the athletes to Wellington knowing that they would not be able to compete.”
Hollow Creek Farm and Equestrian Sport Productons, organizers of the Wellington events, are footing the bill for the events with no funds from any government or national federation.
The ban on Ecuadoran equestrian pariticpation applies to all disciplines governed by the FEI–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para-equestrian. Although the Nations Cups in the current case are for jumping, a dressage Nations Cup formatted specially for Pan American Games nations is scheduled for Wellington in mid-April. It is not known whether any Ecuadoran combinations would seek to take part.
Only one Nations Cup is assigned to a country each year, and the Wellington jumping event has become one of the most popular in the world with teams from throughout the Americas, Europe and Australia. Ten nations participated in 2012. Germany won.
Two Nations Cups are held each year in the entire Americas, one in Wellington in winter and a second at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada, in the Fall.
Equestrian Sport Productions organizes the Winter Equestrian Festival of 12 weeks of jumping and the companion Gobal Dressage Festival with five CDIs including a dressage Nations Cup at the Palm Beach center in Wellington.
It has become the main hub of equestrian sports for the Americas as well as a winter destinaton for Europeans.
One of the top sponsors of WEF and other equestrian events in the United States in recent years is G & C, owned by Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal, who are from Venezuela but are based in Wellington.