FEI Defends its Interpretation of Rule Blocking World No. 1 Jessica von Bredow-Werndl from Competing Sooner than “Minimum” Pregnancy Leave of 6 Months

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Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on TSF Dalera BB at the 2021 European Championships. © Ken Braddick/DRESSAGE-NEWS.com

Sept. 16, 2022

The FEI–International Equestrian Federation–has defended its decision to block Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s return to competition less than six months after she was granted maternity leave for the birth of her second child. The FEI acknowledged worldwide opposition to the decision and said it will review the rule.

The FEI, the governing body of international horse sports, said the decision to prevent the world No. 1 rider from competing at a CDI4* at Ludwigsburg, Germany next week–Sept. 22-25–was made “to protect the fairness and integrity of the sport.”

The FEI database for Jessica states that the German rider is “Not competing from 18/04/2022 to 18/10/2022.” If that part of the rule is followed, A start on Sept. 20 would be a month earlier than stated in the database.

“While we fully understand her desire to compete, Ms von Bredow-Werndl clearly expressed her decision to avail of the maternity leave provisions set out in Article 2.2 of the FEI Dressage World Ranking List Rules in April 2022 and it was explained to Ms von Bredow-Werndl at the time that the minimum period of the maternity leave would be six months,” the FEI said in a statement.

“The FEI also informed the German Equestrian Federation at the time that, further to Ms von Bredow-Werndl’s decision, a note had been added to her profile confirming that she would not be competing during the six-month period of her maternity leave.

“Once an Athlete has chosen to apply for medical/maternity leave under Article 2.2 of the FEI Dressage World Ranking List Rules, and has benefited from the provision allowing for the retention of 50% of the ranking points from the corresponding six months of the previous year, it is not possible for the Athlete to subsequently change their mind.

“The procedures currently in place for Athletes applying for medical/maternity leave are to protect the fairness and integrity of the sport. Any recalculation of the Dressage Rankings could have a significant impact on other Athletes.”

However, the rule also covers the possibility that leave of less than six months is possible, though this was not mentioned in the FEI statement. The rule also mentions only international competitions, not national events.

The complete 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 (national federation) accordingly. The Athlete concerned must inform the FEI Dressage Director when they resume international participation.”

Jessica said she was willing to abide by the provision of losing points from the corresponding month a year earlier that would seem to be September, 2021. Then she earned a total of 1,007 points. She currently has a total of 3,042 points. The rule does not address points earned after September and before her pregnancy leave began but not included in the total that provides for results from eight starts over the previous year. There were three such results that totaled 1,047 points.

The FEI said it will undertake a review of the medical/maternity leave rules for the future in consultation with the International Dressage and the International Jumping Riders Clubs and the other equestrian groups.