FEI Changes 2021 World Cup Rules to Increase European Domination, Cutting Out Some Prospects from Other Nations

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Yvonne Losos De Muñiz of the Dominican Republic ridinh Aquamarijn at the 2019 World Cup Final. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Jan. 4, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The 2021 dressage World Cup Final may become European for all but three riders under new rules written by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) that eliminates starting places including one that had seen competitors from South America and Asia compete in the annual championships.

Under the new rules the FEI, based in Lausanne, Switzerland and the FEI Dressage Committee whose six members are all Europeans eliminated three of the 18 starting places that were reserved for a non-league competitor, an extra starting place and a home athlete.

The three places, the new rules state, “will be given to the countries from WEL,” the Western European League that is already allocated nine of the 18 starting places at the final that is scheduled for Gothenburg, Sweden in April.

The rule change means that the nine current spots for Western Europe, plus two for Central Europe and the defending titleholder, Isabell Werth of Germany, and the three new slots for WEL take up 15 of the 18 starting places.

Only the two places allocated to North America, Canada and the United States, and one for the Pacific of Australia and New Zealand likely will represent the entire world outside Europe.

Dominican Republic’s Yvonne Losos De Muñiz who rode at the 2018 and 2019 World Cup Finals returned to Wellington, Florida Sunday to prepare for the Global Dressage Festival and its three qualifiers in which she intended to campaign for a start in her third Final. She also competed at the 2016 Olympics.

Riders from nations not in any of the established leagues competed in the last three Finals–Argentine and Brazil in 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska; Dominican Republic and the Philippines at Paris in 2018 and from the Dominican Republic and South Africa at the 2019 Gothenburg event.

The FEI said in reply to a query from dressage-news.com it expected to provide clarification later this week.

The FEI has four geographic leagues: Western Europe, Central Europe, North America and the Pacific. However, the rules have previously provided for “non league” riders to seek a start, as well as providing for an “extra starting place” and a “home athlete.”

The decision to eliminate the three places and assign them to Western Europe came in a review in December of the qualifying schedule that because of the coronavirus pandemic saw only one held in Western Europe in 2020 and two more scheduled in 2021 out of a total of 10. Results from other CDIs, not designated as World Cup qualifiers, could count toward standings.

Central Europe, in which several Western European riders had already earned points, succeeded in putting on close to a complete circuit. The Pacific league has held no qualifiers and is unlikely to do so but can also nominate a rider based in Europe or the U.S. for its starting place.

Four qualifiers have already been held in the United States and three more are scheduled over the next three months in Florida’s seven-CDI Global winter circuit.

The FEI decision was posted on the body’s rules section with no publicity. A news release later in December dealing with decisions on championships made no reference to the changes, and neither did the FEI monthly update for December.

Some national federations outside those with representatives on the FEI Dressage Committee confirmed to dressage-news.com they had not been notified of the new rules.

It is not known whether reducing the geographic spread of competitors came as a move to save money–organizers pay transportation–as the Gothenburg organizers have already indicated there likely will be no spectators that typically cover about 80% of the costs of staging the event.

Spectators, though, are very welcoming of all riders no matter the flag they ride under.