Reverting Olympic team numbers back to four in dressage and eventing, rethinking freestyle dressage judging, establishing a dressage Nations Cup series and developing an Event Classification System in show jumping were all talking points at the second Fédération Equestre Internationale Sports Forum.
Close to 300 delegates met in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 8-9, for the forum, where 150 proposals were presented in regard to the three disciplines discussed: driving, dressage and jumping. FEI President HRH Princess Haya hosted the forum at the International Management Development Institute where members of the equestrian community met to address the most pressing issues in the sport.
During the dressage round table, FEI Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman proposed the introduction of a medium tour, which would bridge the gap between Grand Prix, the sport’s highest level, and the small tour. “Currently there are 660 Grand Prix horses on the FEI World Dressage Rankings,” Kemperman said. “Grand Prix is a difficult level which is accessible to relatively few combinations that compete only six to eight times a year. It would be a huge benefit to organizers to make it possible for the top riders to compete more often and to open the sport to new faces.”
Delegates welcomed this proposal, particularly as a medium tour would help grow the sport in countries outside Europe. “This is a very good development, and we embrace it,” said Jim Wolf, U.S. Equestrian Federation Executive Director of Sport Programs.
“A medium tour would be very important for us,” added Colombian dressage rider Constanza Jaramillo.
In addition, a new dressage test between Intermediaire I and II will be developed for use at international events to provide an easier transition for young horses and young riders and allow for a higher number of starters at shows.
The introduction of the FEI Nations Cup Dressage is also an important element for the future of the sport. Starting in May this year, a test season will be conducted to evaluate the series’ potential. The current calendar is as follows:
CDIO*** Vidauban (France), May 17-20
CDIO***** Rotterdam (the Netherlands), June 19-23
CDIO***** Aachen (Germany), June 25-30
CDIO*** Hickstead (Great Britain), Aug. 1-4
FEI Dressage and Para-Dressage Director Trond Asmyr discussed the proposed changes to the freestyle judging format. The freestyle, which is hugely popular with spectators, has been instrumental in the current heightened popularity of the sport, and it contains the most subjective judging elements of all dressage tests. The ideas put forward to achieve increased objectivity in freestyle judging include changing the artistic marks, further defining the degree of difficulty, and improving the way the selected music is judged.
The jumping round table was the final session at the two-day FEI Sports Forum, focusing on rules revision, the Event Classification System and the Concours de Saut International invitation rules.
John Madden, chair of the FEI Jumping Committee, opened the session with a report on the ECS project, which is designed to evaluate FEI jumping events with the ultimate goal of using the ECS to grade events.
Three test evaluations have been completed in a test pilot program, and the ECS is modeled after the system used to evaluate FEI World Cup-qualifying events in North America for a number of years. “For events looking to improve, this gives valuable feedback moving forward, and we believe it will help to strengthen the FEI brand as well as the sport itself,” the report read.
Scoring is based on a number of criteria but is weighted towards the technical aspects of the event such as footing, stabling, the field of play and warm-up areas, as well as seating capacity and spectator numbers, television and media coverage, results service, trade area, and catering. The combination of all the data provides an overall score for each event, producing an objective ranking system that can be used to solve calendar disputes, assign star levels and tie in to the awarding of points for the Longines Rankings.
The FEI had asked for proposals from national federations, athletes, officials and other stakeholders, and a total of 150 proposals were discussed by the Jumping Committee, with agreement being reached in about 130 cases. With such a complete rules revision, there was not sufficient time to go into every amendment, and Stephen Ellenbruch focused on the proposed revisions to the rules on water jumps, headgear, hind leg boots, officials, grand prix qualification and special competitions.
The Jumping Committee is currently reviewing hind leg boots that are not used for protective reasons and a working group has been formed to look into this in more detail. The working group is made up of Stephan Ellenbruch, fellow Jumping Committee member Max Kuehner, Veterinary Committee member Philip Benoit, a biomechanic expert, and FEI Jumping Director John Roche.
Jumping Committee member Marco Fusté finished the session with a presentation on the CSI invitation rules, which generated a discussion on the percentage of home and foreign riders, wild cards and pay cards.
The session on driving focused on increasing athlete participation in the discipline, giving existing athletes more opportunities to compete internationally and exploring ways of making the sport more attractive to audiences and sponsors.
Significant competition format changes in all phases were also proposed, to include giving organizers the option to switch the marathon and cone phases, introducing two marathon phases instead of the current three, and the introduction of a new cones layout to make the competition more exciting. A number of delegates also suggested that the warm-up phase should be removed from the competition format.
Christophe Dubi, International Olympic Committee Sports Director and Deputy Olympic Games Executive Director, spoke about the success of London 2012 (Great Britain) as having the best spectator figures ever achieved, with ticket sales at 97 percent overall and more than 99 percent for the equestrian events at Greenwich. He was full of praise for the passionate and unified equestrian community, and he confirmed that equestrian is part of the 25 sports recommended by the IOC Executive Board to be included on the core program for the 2020 Olympics. He also spoke about the importance of harmonization across the disciplines to make equestrian sport more readily understood.
Some of the most controversial proposals addressed at the round table discussions were the changes to the Olympic and Paralympic qualifications. The rapid development of equestrian sport means that changes to the format appear necessary. Currently, teams of four riders maximum in each discipline will be able to qualify for an Olympic Games. This means one less rider on eventing teams and one more rider added to dressage teams. In addition, each discipline will now be able to have a reserve member for its team. For the Paralympics this also includes the reduction of maximum participants from one country from five to four and the necessity to include at least one rider from Grade III or IV on each team.
International Movement of Horses
The FEI, the World Animal Health Organization and the European Commission discussed possible improvements to the international movement of horses. With the increased number of competitions worldwide, top-level horses are required to travel more frequently and to a greater number of countries. Susanne Münstermann, Chargée de Mission at the OIE, explained the need to introduce a special official category for equine athletes.
Münstermann explained, “The OIE and FEI are seeking to establish a global protocol for the movement of these horses, categorizing them separately from other horses and other animals, to make this temporary importation procedure much easier. We are also proposing a unique system of identification for these horses that governments can trust—a system that clearly shows they are dealing with a lower risk competition horse.”