Reform in horse-sport: What changes will the FEI get over the line?

Donald Whitaker and Quick Laura AS Z make it over the 2.19m wall.
Making the leap: British showjumper Donald Whitaker and Quick Laura AS Z jumping the 2.19m puissance wall at last year’s Horse of the Year Show. © Julian Portch

The big questions around horse-sport reform have been served up to national federations, as the FEI works to establish what changes might ultimately get some traction.

Reform questions dominated the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, late in April, with delegates from around the globe hearing the reasons behind the need for change, as well as some options offered up by the FEI’s technical committees in each of the disciplines.

The central aims revolve around making the disciplines more consistent, easier to understand, simpler, and more exciting as a spectacle.

The gold-medal winning US vaulting team in action at WEG 2010 in Kentucky.
The gold-medal winning US vaulting team in action at WEG 2010 in Kentucky. © Dirk Caremans

These elements are considered crucial in building larger audiences and lifting television exposure.

There has been much talk about the need to be able to package major events into media-friendly packages. Areas under examination to achieve this include the size of teams and the future of the drop score.

The questions are uncomfortable for many stalwarts of the disciplines, and while the Lausanne gathering certainly demonstrated a willingness to discuss the issues, it is less clear how much buy-in there will be from national federations to actually bring about change.

To that end, the FEI sent out a questionnaire to all national federations following the June 9 meeting of the FEI Bureau. It not only deals with some broader issues, but poses some quite specific questions on potential discipline changes.

No doubt, technical committees or boards within each discipline in national federations around the globe have been meeting this month to formulate their answers.

The deadline has been quite tight, with the FEI requiring responses by June 30.

The questionnaire was divided into two sections, the first covering the principles of change and the second part examining possible changes per discipline.

The first section deals with future formats for the FEI World Equestrian Games and the Olympic Games.

The second section looks at each discipline individually – Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving, Endurance, Reining, Vaulting and Para-Equestrian Dressage.

Competition formats are addressed for each discipline, followed by discipline-specific questions.

The Jumping questions explore Certificates of Capability, the treatment of drop scores and the CSI invitation system.

US team member Shawn Flarida, pictured on Fancy Step at the Kentucky 2010 Games.
US team member Shawn Flarida, pictured on Fancy Step at the Kentucky 2010 Games. © Kit Houghton/FEI

The Dressage questions focus on the length of tests and dress code, and Eventing questions delve into the level of difficulty and minimum eligibility requirements.

Driving focuses on the number of athletes, both per team and competing as individuals, while Endurance explores the number of athletes in a team, as well as speed and qualification requirements.

Reining looks at the possibility of musical accompaniment.

Vaulting questions cente on compulsory tests, while Para-Equestrian Dressage questions focus on team results and classification opportunities.

The FEI hopes the results will provide crucial feedback on the changes it can get over the line.

The responses to the questionnaire will be processed by the FEI and considered by its technical committees in each discipline.

The FEI will likely dedicate a session at the General Assembly in Puerto Rico in November to the reforms, based on the feedback from national federations and the input from the technical committees.

The issue is certain to get a further airing at next year’s Sports Forum, with the likelihood of some specific proposals for change going before the FEI General Assembly late in 2016.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos signalled during his visit to New Zealand early in June that any approved changes would likely be in place for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Canada and the 2020 Olympics.

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