Equestrian world’s “true resourcefulness” noted at FEI General Assembly

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This year’s FEI Hybrid General Assembly, run both in-person and as a virtual event, can be viewed online.

In opening the assembly in Antwerp, Belgium on November 14, FEI President Ingmar De Vos highlighted the importance of community spirit as he looked at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus outbreak in Europe, and looked to the future and equestrian sport’s social licence to operate.

More than 230 delegates were on-site in Antwerp, with 52 National Federations attending in-person (with eight proxies) and a further 56 online (with one proxy). 

De Vos said that in trying times the equestrian world had shown “true resourcefulness, but especially showed a positive and proactive community that can move forward and embrace change.

“And this is something we have really thought about a lot in our 100th year. What do we want for our collective future, for the next generations? From sporting integrity, good governance and sustainability, how are we creating a positive legacy for the future?”

De Vos underscored the importance of maintaining equestrian sport’s social licence to operate, which he described as the most important priority on the community’s ‘to-do list’.

“We must continue to educate the non-equestrian community about equestrian sport and our values as there is a lot of misinformation which exists out there and could threaten the integrity of the sport we love.”

https://youtu.be/oBDdgAL0lAQ

During the GA, World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers gave an impassioned speech on the need for the equestrian community to continue protecting its social licence to operate, echoing the sentiments of the FEI President.

“The idea behind social licence is that we must be transparent, ethical and accountable for what we do. We must do right by our horses – and be seen to be doing so. If we are not, we risk losing our social licence and face dwindling support, and potential intervention by outside regulation.”

Olympic discussion

The Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 will take place on Friday, July 16, with the Games running through to August 11. Equestrian, staged against the backdrop of the Palace of Versailles, will revert to its traditional order of Eventing followed by Dressage and Jumping. The Paralympic Games Paris 2024 kick off on August 28 and will conclude 10 days later on September 8.

At Tuesday’s Rules and Regulations session, European Equestrian Federation (EEF) representatives presented a proposal on alternative qualification pathways, based on both teams of four and teams of three. It called for more emphasis on World Championships and the FEI Nations Cup Series as qualification pathways across the three disciplines, rather than Regional Championships.

FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez raised concerns that the proposal does not meet the IOC’s Olympic Qualification system principles, which include providing more than one opportunity for athletes/teams to qualify, fair and equal opportunities to qualify which do not necessitate expensive or extensive travel, and ensuring continental representation.

Paris 2024 qualification systems dominated the Rules Session discussions at the FEI Hybrid General Assembly.
Paris 2024 qualification systems dominated the Rules Session discussions at the FEI Hybrid General Assembly. © FEI/Dirk Caremans

At the General Assembly, National Federations voted in favour of teams of three at the 2024 Olympic Games by 70 votes to 30, with one abstention. The Paris 2024 qualification systems for Jumping, Dressage and Eventing was passed by 81 in favour, 15 against, and zero abstentions. For the 2024 Paralympic Games, the separate vote on teams of three resulted in 79 in favour, 19 against, with zero abstentions. The Paralympic qualification system had 90 National Federations voting in favour, seven against, and zero abstentions.

Earlier, during the Rules and Regulations session on Tuesday, United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Director of Sport Will Connell called for “longer-term thinking on the Olympic formats that goes beyond Paris 2024”, to include Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032. “We need to play the long game,” he said.

A comprehensive consultation process on the Olympic Regulations and Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) will begin after the General Assembly.

Snippets from the General Assembly

The affiliation of the National Federation of Nepal as an FEI Associate Member was approved by the General Assembly, following approval of this new category by the Extraordinary General Assembly (EGA).

The Eventing Committee has agreed to the development of an FEI Eventing World Challenge, and will proceed with a pilot test in three different regions in 2022 in co-operation with the FEI Solidarity Department. The objective is to encourage countries with fewer competition opportunities to reach international level.

David O’Connor (USA) was re-elected as Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee for the four-year term, from 2021 to 2025, and Stephan Ellenbruch (GER) was re-elected as Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee. Maribel Alonso (MEX) was elected as Chair of the FEI Dressage Committee, to replace outgoing Chair Frank Kemperman (NED).

Cesar Torrente (COL) was re-elected to the FEI Tribunal for 2021 to 2025. Armand Leone (USA) and Philip Cornegé (NZL) were elected as FEI Tribunal Members.

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