Wallace the mule’s competition aspirations are a step closer to fruition after the governing body for dressage in Britain backtracked on an earlier ban from him taking part.
Wallace the Great had been competing at unaffiliated level but when his rider’s dressage team lost two horses through lameness, Christie Mclean sought permission to enter her longer-eared companion.
Surprisingly, British Dressage said no, and that under its rules “only horses and ponies” could compete. Mclean’s team, taking part in the Team Quest event, needed four horses to make up numbers.
“I was really surprised and disappointed. It’s not like he’s a zebra. He has an incredible brain, is so very willing and such a pleasure,” Mclean said.
The decision led to a flurry of discontent in equestrian circles. In the US, mules compete alongside horses and ponies, including the popular Slate – aka Assassin – ridden by Grand Prix level dressage rider and trainer Vicky Busch.
But this week, British Dressage’s board of directors took the reins and moved to align its rules – which didn’t have a full definition of “horse” – with those of the FEI. The world governing body’s definition of “horse” also refers to “Pony or other member of the genus Equus unless the context requires otherwise. A Horse shall be born from a mare.”
This definition would allow mules to compete and the rule change was brought in with immediate effect, although it is unclear if the hinny, a more rare hybrid with a horse sire and a donkey dam, would also come under the ruling.
“We are grateful that this situation has been brought to our attention so we can now ensure our rules are brought in line with the FEI,” said BD chief executive Jason Brautigam.
“We are delighted to welcome Wallace and his fellow mules to compete with BD, as part of our commitment to inclusion and diversity in dressage, making the sport more accessible to all.”
Wallace, who is now 11 years old, was rescued from Ireland by the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary in Devon, after he reportedly annoyed local villagers by eating their flowers. Wallace is looked after by Lesley Radcliffe.