USEF opposes major changes to Olympic Eventing format

The United States Equestrian Federation opposes key elements in reform proposals laid out by the FEI. © Al Crook
The United States Equestrian Federation opposes key elements in reform proposals laid out by the FEI. © Al Crook

Major reservations over proposals by the FEI to change the Olympic Eventing format have been voiced by the US Equestrian Federation (USEF).

The USEF is opposed to a name change, suggesting that better promoting the Eventing brand would be a better course, and it does not support proposals for three-strong teams in the team competition.

Changes proposed by the FEI will be discussed by national delegates attending the world governing body’s Sports Forum early next month.

The FEI’s Eventing Committee has considered a range of comments, submissions and proposals in its deliberations. It has decided to maintain the principles of the Eventing proposal presented at the FEI General Assembly late last year, with a number of further specifications to be discussed at the sports forum.

Delegates to the forum will consider proposals targeted at the Olympic format in a bid to get more nations competing at the Games. The aim is also to get the three Eventing competition elements completed faster, which is part of the push to make the event more media-friendly.

There is also a proposal to change the sport’s name to either the Equestrian Triathlon, the Equi-triathlon, Equestrio, or Triquestrian.

In the team competition, participation will be limited under the proposals to three riders per nation, with the deletion of the drop score for the team competition in order to address the main objective of a more open and inclusive competition.

The proposals are driven by the FEI’s desire to meet the objectives of the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 reform program.

The US Eventing Association’s board of governors was currently drafting its response, recognising that such decisions tended to directly impact the sport on a national level. It noted that other nations were coming forward with formal responses to the FEI’s proposed changes.

The USEF, of which the US Eventing Association is the official Eventing affiliate, has submitted its formal response to the FEI’s proposals.

“As a community and a sport we are faced with a difficult challenge,” the USEF said.

“We are faced with a call for change but without definitive goals to achieve. Change for the sake of change is a dangerous proposition. We need to know where we are trying to get to before we can take effective steps to get there.

“The promised feedback from the IOC following the 2015 Sports Forum agreement is still awaited. We are open to change for the sake of improving the sport of Eventing, remaining in the Olympics, etc, but in the current environment it feels like we are tweaking the edges not changing the sport and we do not know if that is going to achieve the intended result.

“It is felt that the ‘presentation’ of Eventing is where greatest strides can be made.

“A new name will change little if the sport is not effectively presented.”

What, it asked, can be learnt from other sports? It cited sailing, which changed very little, apart from double points for the medal race, but fundamentally changed how the sport was presented during the Olympics.

“Better use of technology, exciting commentary from athletes and celebrities, use of cameras on horses etc are all areas that need looking at.”

The USEF said it did not support three-strong teams. plus a reserve.

“This would make the sport about completion and not about competition. The statistics show very clearly that if there are three in the team for cross-country, with no drop score, either a significant number of teams will not complete or the cross-country will be dumbed down to an extent that the very essence of Eventing is destroyed.”

It said it opposed removal of the drop score.

“In addition to the points outlined above, awarding points to horses that do not complete and/or allowing them to show-jump only makes the scoring more complicated. It does not help simplify the presentation of the sport.”

The federation did, however, support completing the dressage in one day, shortening the test by removing the collective marks and the first halt.

It also backed completing the cross-country in one day.

The federation agreed that the jumping tests for both the individual and team competitions should be wrapped up in one day.

“We support the concept of jumping all team members consecutively, but not having them all in the arena at the same time. The team members should jump in reverse order of standing within the team.

“This would make the final phase and the medal decisions much easier to understand for the general public.

“We feel strongly that the team medals should be decided before the individuals. We support the teams jumping in reverse order of merit in the standings after the cross-country. We feel the team jumping round should be before the individual as the ‘mean’ of the standard of the team will be lower than the ‘mean’ of the top 20 or 25 individuals.

“Furthermore, we would not want athletes not jumping in the individual [competition] in order to save themselves for the team (i.e. those not in contention for an Individual medal).”

The federation said it did not support a name change, but would fully support the FEI in seeking advice on how to more effectively promote the Eventing brand.

“The name ‘Equestrian Triathlon’ has been proposed. Is it the name that needs changing or is it that the equestrian community has never completely embraced the change from horse trials to Eventing?

“It is not the name but the promotion of the identity of the sport, which is linked to that name, which is more important. Is adopting a new name going to change anything or just further divide the community and confuse the public?”

The USEF’s Eventing Committee completed draft proposals after consultation and discussion at three open forums in 2015. The committee plans further discussions after the FEI Sports Forum, after which it will finalize all its recommendations and comments.

“Nations will receive a first draft of the 2017 Eventing Rules changes on July 15, 2016. This first draft will also be published on the FEI website to allow for comments.

After receiving these comments, the committee will then produce a final draft which will be sent out in late October of this year to coincide with the FEI Statutes for the General Assembly.

The federation noted that the FEI was currently collecting input before the upcoming sports forum and has offered an online discussion platform to be open from March 16-21 to collect wider input on proposals.

Full details of the proposed Olympic Eventing changes can be read here.
Full details on the Eventing rules revision can be read here.

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