As of March 19, the Fédération Equestre Internationale has approved the FEI Eventing Committee’s proposal to update the qualification and categorization system for event riders.
The two big changes will prevent categorized riders from having to start at the one-star level with a new horse and will also make it easier for riders to get categorized at a higher level.
In the beginning of 2013, the FEI introduced an eligibility matrix for categorized riders according to how many minimum eligibility requirements they’d achieved at a level in FEI events in the past eight years. Riders were categorized as A, B, C, D or uncategorized, with A being the four-star level and D being the one-star level.
The new rules meant all uncategorized riders had to qualify for FEI events at every level as a horse-and-rider team. The Event Riders Association, the international organization that represents eventers, raised concerns with the FEI over riders who had upper-level experience but weren’t categorized having to go back to the one-star level with experienced horses in order to meet these new qualifications. An ERA petition received 1455 signatures in protest of the new rules from names such as Andrew Hoy and Gina Miles.
The original matrix called for 20 MERs at a level over the last eight years in order to fall into that category. I.e. a rider who had completed at least 20 CIC and CCI***s with qualifying results would be categorized as a B and wouldn’t need to start at the two-star level with a new horse, if the horse came with previous qualifying three-star experience. The FEI quickly adjusted that number to 15 MERs for 2013, and now that grace period has been extended to 2014 as well.
The next big change is that riders are now in an either/or situation. They need 15 MERs at level, or five MERs at a higher level to get categorized at a lower level. For instance, if you have five MERs at the three- and four-star level, you’ll be categorized as a C, even if you don’t have 15 MERs at the two-star level.
Another important change will allow all categorized riders to enter at the two-star level, as long as they meet national federation requirements. This will alleviate concerns about advanced horses having to return to preliminary in order to get qualifications.
The last change addresses nomenclature: Uncategorized riders will be known as "Uncategorized International Athletes" rather than "National Athletes."
The ERA released a statement simply saying: "ERA welcomes these changes and will continue to monitor the effect of all the new rules during the season."