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A working group set up to overhaul key areas of dressage has this week met with officials from ice skating and gymnastics as part of its review of the way the equestrian sport is judged.

The dressage task force (DTF) was set up by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) last November to create a more transparent and democratic sport.

It will present a full plan for the Olympic discipline to the FEI general assembly this November, and earlier this month handed a progress update to the FEI bureau.

The update included proposals to increase the number of riders per nation in international competition back to four. Many within the sport hoped the FEI would apply to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by the end of this month for more horses to compete in the 2012 London Olympics — to enable four riders per country, instead of the current three.

But FEI executive sports director David Holmes said: “The bureau wants to present the whole plan [to the IOC] as was agreed at the general assembly last year.”

H&H columnist Richard Davison sits on the task force as rider representative.

“It was disappointing [the interim plans were not put forward], but applying to the IOC is like applying for planning permission — it’s only a request,” he said. “All sorts of sports — new and existing — want extra athletes included for the 2012 games, so nothing is certain for horse sport.

“This means the same number of horses will compete at 2012, and although it still needs to be ratified by the IOC, whether three or four dressage riders represent each nation is more of an ‘internal’ decision for the FEI.”

Mr Davison added: “We have to ensure that if we increase the number of riders per nation, the number of nations competing does not decrease.”

The DTF also presented a recommendation to rework the dressage committee, dropping from six to five members, with an organiser, trainer, rider, judge and owner represented. But it was asked to consult further with the FEI nominations committee to ensure such a small committee would be properly representative of the sport.

And this week, the DTF met in Switzerland with other sporting bodies to discuss how different disciplines have changed their judging format. One of those is ice skating — which completely overhauled its judging system following a major scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics where accusations of corruption and bias almost brought down the sport.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (23 April, ’09)

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