Move to Reduce Size of Dressage, Jumping, Eventing Teams at Olympic & World Games To Be Voted By FEI

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Olympic dressage medal teams of four riders with three scores counting on the podium at Rio de Janeiro--Germany (gold), Great Britain (silver) and USA (bronze). © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Olympic dressage medal teams of four riders with three scores counting on the podium at Rio de Janeiro–Germany (gold), Great Britain (silver) and USA (bronze). © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

TOKYO, Nov. 21, 2016–A move to reduce the size of dressage, jumping and eventing teams at the World Games and Olympics was debated at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) General Assembly Monday, a day ahead of a vote on the landmark proposal.

The proposed changes are to maintain dressage in the Olympics at a total of 60 riders and horses but cut teams to three from four to enable more nations to participate.

A similar proposal for the World Games to come into effect at Tryon, North Carolina in 2018 that would limit the total number for dressage to 80 horses and riders appeared to meet with more opposition.

The formats for the two global events were the key topic at the General Assembly ahead of Tuesday’s vote. For the Olympics, the version approved will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee to be implemented for the three Olympic equestrian disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Almost 300 delegates, representing 76 of the FEI’s 134 national federations took part in the final debate wrapping up a two-year effort on the proposed changes designed to increase universality, a key requirements of the Olympic Agenda 2020. Another 31 federations will vote by proxy, increasing the number of votes to 107.

The proposals aim to make horse sports more readily understandable and packaged in a more compact format with the goal of engaging new fans.

The key proposal is to have three athletes per team. The drop score, which previously allowed for a team’s worst score to be discarded, would be removed under the new proposals.

Ulf Helgstrand, president of the Danish federation, was among those in favor of the new format.

“We want excitement and more flags,” he said, “and we have to make our sport more understandable. Which other sport can have a medal with an athlete that’s been disqualified? We will have much more excitement if one of the top countries or riders fails. This will give us more excitement and more flags.”

Natallia Kalesnikava, executive director of the Belarus federation, was applauded for her remarks: “We fully support this proposal. It gives a great opportunity for our country that’s been developing for the past 20 years to go to the Olympic Games. As soon as a country has the opportunity to participate in the Olympics, it has the support of its government and sponsors, the chance to promote the sport and attract more young people. With this proposal you increase the number of countries to possibly 50 that would have the chance to raise their flag at the Olympic Games.”

German federation Secretary General Sönke Lauterbach spoke against.

“We understand the desire to get more universality in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but it has to be balanced with the core principles of our sport, that we have top athletes, top level sport and in line with horse welfare requirements. We do not feel that with three per team we have the right balance of these three principles and that is why we will vote against tomorrow, but we will accept and work with whatever decision is made.”

FEI President Ingmar De Vos gave details of the timeline for implementation of the Olympic formats prior to Tokyo 2020:

February 2017 – FEI proposals will go to the IOC Executive Board
May 2017 – IOC Program Commission will make recommendations to the IOC Executive Board
July 2017 – IOC Executive Board meeting will decide on events and the quota November 2017 – FEI General Assembly in Montevideo, Uruguay will finalize quota distribution and eligibility.