Jessica von Bredow Werndl & the Confusing Maternity Leave Rule

2 weeks ago StraightArrow Comments Off on Jessica von Bredow Werndl & the Confusing Maternity Leave Rule
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB celebrating victory at the 2022 World Cup Final in Leipzig, Germany, the last competition before starting her maternity leave. © 2022 Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

On July 29 this year, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was asked by dressage-news.com how the maternity leave provision of the ranking rules were to be applied as there was widespread confusion in the dressage community.

The question was labeled as “somewhat pressing” as points assigned from the Tokyo Olympics were at stake.

The FEI did not reply until Aug. 5, nine days later, and it merely provided the text of the rule.

“Athletes may request a maternity leave or a medical leave providing the pregnancy/medical condition is certified in writing by a medical doctor; requests for maternity/medical leave must be addressed to the FEI Dressage Director. During the period which an Athlete has officially ceased to compete due to pregnancy or a medical condition, they will retain 50% of the Dressage World Rankings points earned from the corresponding month of the preceding year until they recommence competing internationally.

“The minimum length of time for which an Athlete may be granted a maternity/medical leave is six months; if the maternity/medical leave lasts less than six months, no points will be retained from the corresponding month of the preceding year.

“The maximum length of time an Athlete may benefit from a maternity/medical leave of absence at one time is twelve months. During the period in which an Athlete is on maternity/medical leave, they may not compete in international or national Competitions; the FEI will inform the Athlete’s NF accordingly. The Athlete concerned must inform the FEI Dressage Director when they resume international participation.”

Dressage-news responded that it had read the rule several times, had asked two national federations, two riders (Jessica von Bredow-Werndl was not one of them) and a licensed official for their interpretations.

The most common response, as we informed the FEI: “I have no idea. No-one seems to have a clear idea because it’s so badly written.”

The FEI replied on Aug. 7 that it was busy at the world championships in Herning, Denmark “so there might be a delay on our response. Thank you for your patience.” Dressage-news.com also was at the world championships.

As of Sept. 15–77 days after the question was submitted–there was no further reply from the FEI.

Until, indirectly, the decision in the case of Jessica’s planned return to competition Sept. 22-25 that would essentially block her from resuming competition unless she sustained a huge points penalty in the world rankings.

Jessica proposed returning to competition 33 days ahead of what the FEI has determined is the time she cannot compete. She said she’s willing to forego the 1,122 points she won in September, 2021 in sweeping the European Championships, the corresponding month from a year ago.

If that part of the rule was followed, Jessica might have been be able to include 1,007 points she earned in competitions in months after that but were not included because they were exceeded by other marks and before she began the baby break.

So instead of 3,042 points accumulated in the year through the World Cup and before the start of maternity leave on April 18 this year Jessica would have a total 2,927 points placing her 136 points ahead of the next horse and rider combination.

That means she would still be world No. 1.