Blood sweat and tears: the FEI comments

October 24, 2010

The FEI has responded to the report on the World Equestrian Games, entitled "Blood, sweat and tears", in which journalist Lulu Kyriacou discussed issues and rule implementation at the Kentucky event.


Part of the World Games opening ceremony. © Kit Houghton/FEI

Below is the full FEI response to Horsetalk from an FEI press officer, Tracie Simpson, and Kyriacou's response follows that.

Simpson said the FEI was concerned about the "negative tone" of the report and raised several issues, to which Kyriacou has responded.

Simpson said there were many wonderfully positive aspects to the Games and listed several in her letter.

Kyriacou, in her response, said her article was based on her observations at the event as a journalist.

Kyriacou acknowledged there were many positive things about the Games and these were well reported, both by herself and other journalists.

"These were my observations and comments [in the Horsetalk report] and I decided to write about those rather than just regular reports.

"I am really not quite sure why it is, amidst the wealth of good publicity, that the FEI should be so concerned about my lone voice."

Horsetalk, in total, ran nearly 100 reports on the Games in the week leading up the Games, and during the 10 days of competition.


From: Tracie Simpson
Sent: Saturday, 23 October 2010 4:20 AM
To: info@horsetalk.co.nz
Subject: Response from the FEI to an article published on 14 October.

Dear Editor,

I write in response to the article published on the Horsetalk website on October 14, written by the journalist Lulu Kyriacou.

Whilst we are delighted that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games has received such in-depth coverage, we are concerned by the negative tone of this article. Most importantly, we would like to draw your attention to some factual inaccuracies contained within this report.

Contrary to the suggestion on page 4 of the article, the FEI has responded on more than one occasion to Ms Kyriacou. FEI Director of Press Relations Grania Willis spoke to her on this matter in person in Kentucky, as well as making two phone calls to Ms Kyriacou. On October 13, the day before this article was published on your website, FEI Press Manager Malina Gueorguiev emailed Ms Kyriacou and supplied her with the following information, which she has not included within her report ...

On 13 October 2010 13:48, Malina Gueorguiev wrote:

Dear Lulu, I understand you had some queries regarding the elimination of horses from the Cross Country phase of the Eventing competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

We consulted with the FEI Director of Eventing Catrin Norinder and FEI Director of Dressage Trond Asmyr and this is the information that I can give you.



The FEI says all horses are fully reviewed upon completion of the cross-country. © Kim MacMillan / MacMillan Photography
The grey horse ridden by an Italian rider you were referring to was stopped by the Ground Jury through the sector steward because there appeared to be blood on the horse's mouth. The horse was inspected by a veterinarian and since there were only very minor scratches, the horse was allowed to continue. However, the rider's airbag had exploded and he was therefore not in a position to resume the competition.

There were six sectors on the Cross Country of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Each one was staffed by a steward (the sector steward I was referring to above), who is an International Eventing judge; by one or more veterinarians; a medical officer; and an ambulance.

The FEI has not received any report regarding [name deleted]. (I believe this is the bay horse you were concerned about.) I would like to emphasise that all horses were fully reviewed upon completion of the Cross Country, once immediately upon arrival and then ten minutes later to determine their recuperation rate.

Where Dressage is concerned, the steward has the possibility to stop a bleeding horse in the warm up area; the rider can clean the blood and continue in case no further bleeding occurs. If bleeding occurs in the competition arena, the horse is considered unfit to compete and will be eliminated, i.e. the rider will not be allowed to clean the blood up and continue. The judge will stop the horse and control whether it is bleeding as soon as he/she has a suspicion.

The difference in rules between the two disciplines is due to the fact that in Dressage the judges are much closer to the competitors and have a better possibility to evaluate the situation. Stopping a rider to allow them to clean the blood, would result in unwanted disruption in the starting times. However, if it is established that the horse was not bleeding, the rider will be allowed to continue.

We would hope that this information largely responds to the issues raised by Ms Kyriacou in the early part of her article.

Further to this, we would draw your attention to a statement relating to an incident with the Italian athlete, Susanna Bordone. The quote is very misleading and incorrect. It states: "I do not think they were an FEI official, just a volunteer steward."

In fact ALL FEI stewards are non-paid officials, as are FEI judges and technical delegates. This means that they do not make their living by officiating at FEI events, but they do undertake extensive education programmes and are selected for their knowledge and proficiency within the sport.

Further to this and in regard to the following statement: "As far as eventing goes, the question one really must ask is should the aim of a world championship be to encourage lesser nations to compete or to find the best of the best? Even building a track with many two-star level alternatives failed to get half the teams home complete."

The FEI World Equestrian Games is the World Championships for horse sport so, by definition, it must have global representation. If the sport is to continue to grow and maintain its international appeal, then it is imperative that the FEI continues to encourage lesser known equestrian nations to participate in such global events. By continuing to grow the sport and encourage greater participation, it makes the sport more attractive to the media and to sponsors which, in turn, ensures the survival of equestrian sport.

In terms of the security issues raised around IJsbrand Chardon's carriage, this is also rather misleading. The carriage was NOT in the stables, but was in a compound outside the stables. At no point was there any possibility of anyone entering the stables at night without permission, which would only be granted in specific circumstances, for example if a horse was ill. If a horse was unwell, the person tending to the horse would still require a pass and would be accompanied by a steward.

There were so many wonderfully positive aspects of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and it seems a shame not to highlight some of those.

For the first time ever, the World Equestrian Games included eight disciplines, with Para-Equestrian Dressage joining the fold, thus making the FEI World Equestrian Games, one of the most inclusive events in all sporting codes.

Awarding the Games to the United States created a huge positive in itself, especially in terms of growing the sport in that country. Regular live coverage was secured on one of America's biggest networks, NBC, something that has never before been given to equestrian sport other than at the Olympic Games and the full variety of disciplines were covered within 8.5 hours of coverage on NBC. Two other major North American networks, CBC Canada and Universal Sport (US), also carried live coverage. These Games were also broadcast on a Pan African network for the first time and broader coverage was achieved across the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions. In addition, the 2010 Games were screened live on FEI TV for the first time.

We thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and look forward to following further FEI coverage on your website over the coming months.

Yours

Tracie Simpson


Lulu Kyriacou has responded, saying the FEI appeared to be challenging her observations and questioning her role as a journalist. Kyriacou says she fully accepts that mistakes can be made by either side, but that she did not resort to mud-slinging in her piece, "nor does Ms Simpson seem to be in possesion of the facts about my communications with her organisation in this matter".

Kyriacou writes as follows, addressing each point individually:

"Contrary to the suggestion on page 4 of the article, the FEI has responded on more than one occasion to Ms Kyriacou. FEI Director of Press Relations Grania Willis spoke to her on this matter in person in Kentucky, as well as making two phone calls to Ms Kyriacou. On October 13, the day before this article was published on your website, FEI Press Manager Malina Gueorguiev emailed Ms Kyriacou and supplied her with the following information, which she has not included within her report ... "

Malina's email was forwarded direct to the Editor of Horsetalk the second I received, but that was not until after I had already submitted the article, despite giving the FEI three more days after I left the Games to provide one. With regard to Grania's phone calls, both of these were on the last day of the Games. I was in the shower when she called and returned the call immediately. She had shown little interest in responding to my original email query until after I informed her of the existence of the photographs used in the article, which was a week after the cross country had run. Revealing that I had such an item was what prompted her to spend a few minutes with me in person. When I returned her call I was informed that she had forwarded my original email (sent Monday 4th Oct) to various FEI eventing officials but they had been busy revising the rule book which had to be done before the General Assembly and therefore had not had the time to answer. She also wished to know for whom I was writing the piece and asked (again) if I could extend my deadline. I declined to reveal who I was writing it for (an element of surprise is good!) but I did say I could wait a couple more days before submitting. Grania said that might not be enough as everyone was travelling home. The Editor can also confirm that I told her I had a great story a week earlier and was holding off sending it while I waited for FEI response. I might remind the FEI that I had filled in the required press form and asked for an FEI eventing official to interview on the morning of Monday 4th October and was informed that the Ground Jury had already left. It was because of this that I emailed Grania asking how I could contact them (or any FEI eventing official) to ask my question and she replied by asking me to send it to her, which I did.

When I eventually recieved it, ten days after the original email, Ms Gueorguiev's response was not particularly satisfactory as it did not answer the original question of why a bitten tongue was more serious in a dressage horse than it was in an eventer going cross country if it was a welfare issue. It was this particular question that I reiterated to Grania when we spoke in person at the time I showed her the photo of [name deleted].

The following part of the answer was what I found completely unsatisfactory.

"Where Dressage is concerned, the steward has the possibility to stop a bleeding horse in the warm up area; the rider can clean the blood and continue in case no further bleeding occurs. If bleeding occurs in the competition arena, the horse is considered unfit to compete and will be eliminated, i.e. the rider will not be allowed to clean the blood up and continue. The judge will stop the horse and control whether it is bleeding as soon as he/she has a suspicion. The difference in rules between the two disciplines is due to the fact that in Dressage the judges are much closer to the competitors and have a better possibility to evaluate the situation. Stopping a rider to allow them to clean the blood, would result in unwanted disruption in the starting times. However, if it is established that the horse was not bleeding, the rider will be allowed to continue."

The reason I found this of little use was it merely states the rules in the first paragraph, which we know and were printed as part of the article. It does not explain why a horse is immediately eliminated for blood in the mouth in a dressage test (of any discipline) but not in the cross country phase. Surely if this is a welfare issue both things are the same. And if it cannot be seen clearly, how can such a rule be fairly enforced.

The second paragraph was also unsatisfactory because as the dressage judges are closer, surely they are in the best position to see whether the blood results from abuse or an accident.

Further, this was a World Championship, where the competitors have worked for years to reach the required level. If they make an error of test they are stopped and restarted and I think on the whole most of them would prefer that option to summary dismissal from the entire contest! As for a disruption in starting times, we are talking about a minute or two in a tiny minority of tests. Two errors of course could take up the same time and as for the event horses on cross country, they are all well used to being stopped on course for any number of reasons so this is a completely moot point for them. BECAUSE of this, I left inclusion of the FEI response to the Editor of Horsetalk as personally I did not think it did the FEI any credit myself.

The grey horse ridden by an Italian rider you were referring to [Marco Biasia] was stopped by the Ground Jury through the sector steward because there appeared to be blood on the horse's mouth. The horse was inspected by a veterinarian and since there were only very minor scratches, the horse was allowed to continue. However, the rider's airbag had exploded and he was therefore not in a position to resume the competition.

With regard to the air jacket worn by Marco, this is the first time it has been mentioned to me by anyone including the eye witnesses, photographers, sector stewards etc, but it would only have gone off if the rider was forced to dismount when the horse was checked and he forgot to unclip it (easily done). However, they are designed to deflate within 30 seconds and are not an FEI requirement for riders so if the jacket had gone off, with the rider only six fences from home at a world championship, I would be astonished if he had not simply removed it and carried on.

Next, this;

"... we would draw your attention to a statement relating to an incident with the Italian athlete, Susanna Bordone. The quote is very misleading and incorrect. It states: "I do not think they were an FEI official, just a volunteer steward."

In fact ALL FEI stewards are non-paid officials, as are FEI judges and technical delegates. This means that they do not make their living by officiating at FEI events, but they do undertake extensive education programmes and are selected for their knowledge and proficiency within the sport."

First, this is a direct quote from the rider who is entitled to her opinion. Second, your statement regarding the officials is absolutely correct but I read the rider's statement to refer to a volunteer as opposed to an official. Whoever it was they were did not measure the logo correctly according to the rider.

Then this

"... in regard to the following statement: 'As far as eventing goes, the question one really must ask is should the aim of a world championship be to encourage lesser nations to compete or to find the best of the best? Even building a track with many two-star level alternatives failed to get half the teams home complete.'

"The FEI World Equestrian Games is the World Championships for horse sport so, by definition, it must have global representation. If the sport is to continue to grow and maintain its international appeal, then it is imperative that the FEI continues to encourage lesser known equestrian nations to participate in such global events. By continuing to grow the sport and encourage greater participation, it makes the sport more attractive to the media and to sponsors which, in turn, ensures the survival of equestrian sport. "

The statement is my opinion and written entirely to promote comment and discussion. Most people are aware WHY, the question was, is it right? And as I pointed out, in eventing, despite the tinkering, there are still only six nations who can realistically have any chance of winning a team Gold: the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, New Zealand and Australia (though we may soon have to add Canada to the list).

Next ...

"In terms of the security issues raised around IJsbrand Chardon's carriage, this is also rather misleading. The carriage was NOT in the stables, but was in a compound outside the stables. At no point was there any possibility of anyone entering the stables at night without permission, which would only be granted in specific circumstances, for example if a horse was ill. If a horse was unwell, the person tending to the horse would still require a pass and would be accompanied by a steward."

Perhaps I should have said 'in the stables compound' because that is where it was. Ms Simpson is quite right in her statement about access to the area but she is not clear about what this compound contains or where the carriage was within it. These issues were clarified more than once at the press conference with the Kentucky State Police, and can also be backed up by the well published statements of Pauline Chardon, who was expressed several times that anyone with access to the carriages could just as easily accessed the horses as they were all WITHIN THE SAME COMPOUND and only metres apart.

Finally there were many positive things about the Games, I referred to one of the major ones I believe, but that is what 99 per cent of the attending journalists have reported. These were my observations and comments and I decided to write about those rather than just regular reports, which I also filed daily. (An example).

I am really not quite sure why it is, amidst the wealth of good publicity, that the FEI should be so concerned about my lone voice.