Shorter course, improved welfare promised for pentathlon horses

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Above: Footage of Saint Boy at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture, provided by his owners.

The world governing body for the sport of Modern Pentathlon is working on measures to improve horse welfare in the sport, following several incidents in the riding section of the women’s event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

During the women’s event at Tokyo 2020 on August 6, the horse, Saint Boy, appeared to have been struck by German coach Kim Raisner during the competition after he would not jump for his rider, Annika Schleu. Raisner was disqualified from the remainder of the Tokyo 2020 Games by the UIPM. The incident caused an international uproar and many calls for the riding phase to be dropped from the Modern Pentathlon.

The Executive Board of the UIPM is working to appoint a Disciplinary Panel to rule on the events that took place and a Riding Working Group has been formed to assess the need for amendments to the UIPM Code of Ethics for the welfare of horses, and will draft amendments if required.

A review of the riding phase of Tokyo 2020 is under way by the UIPM.

“UIPM strongly condemns any abuse, online or offline, directed at any of the individuals involved in the events of August 6. There is no place for any kind of abuse in our sport and UIPM will work with the National Federations of anyone affected to make sure the victims are receiving appropriate support,” the UIPM said.

The sport is not one of the disciplines under the auspices of the world governing body for equestrian sport, the FEI, but UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann is to meet with FEI President Ingmar de Vos, who has offered to provide advice on the horse welfare front. The UIPM also said it would provide a new set of guidelines and online educational tools for horse welfare tailored to athletes and coaches.

Changes to the sport were already under way with the introduction of a new “short and dynamic competition flow” next year, in which all five disciplines of the event will take place over 90 minutes. The UIPM is drafting modifications to the Riding section of its Competition Rules which will mean the phase would have few jumps and lower, simpler obstacles.

Saint Boy at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture on August 11.
Saint Boy at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture on August 11. (UIPM)

“UIPM remains fully committed to Riding as an integral part of the Modern Pentathlon based on the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin,” Schormann said.

“Our Union has already adapted Modern Pentathlon in many innovative ways based on expert advice and feedback from both inside and outside of our global sporting community. On behalf of the UIPM Executive Board, I look forward to working with all parties concerned to ensure we make the adjustments needed to provide a safe and secure future for the Riding discipline within Modern Pentathlon.”

The UIPM said it will adjust the content of courses within the Coaches Certification Programme (CCP) and Judges Certification Programme (JCP) to add more emphasis on animal welfare, and training and case study materials will be provided to all UIPM Technical Delegates to better equip them to handle specific situations and scenarios in competitions starting in 2022.

The UIPM Executive Board would discuss any recommendations and modifications to the sport at its meeting in Monaco on November 24 to 25. National Federations would have a chance for a say on the changes at the UIPM 2021 Congress, which is being held online from November 26 to 28.

Saint Boy, the horse at the centre of the events of August 6, is “safe and well back home at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture”, according to his owners. “He is in good health, although fatigued from competition.”

Saint Boy was ridden by Gulnaz Gubaydullina (ROC) and Annika Schleu (GER) during the Olympic Games.

Saint Boy at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture on August 11.
Saint Boy at the Minakuchi Riding Club in Shiga Prefecture on August 11. (UIPM)

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