Speculation that the FEI Executive Committee has unofficially given the go-ahead to the organisers of the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen to use the short-course format has led to much consternation about the future format of horse trials.

The organisers of the German event give money and space pressure as the reasons why they would opt for the short format, as well as demands made by German television stations covering the event, which are requesting the shorter course.

FEI eventing manager, Catrin Norinder, told HHO’s sister magazine Eventing: “No official decision has been made with regard to the format at Aachen. The question of the format was raised by the Aachen organising committee further to the problems of the Olympic Games and in regard to costs.”

Mike Etherington-Smith, who sits on the FEI three-day event committee, would not confirm whether use of this format at Aachen would be discussed, but said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Aachen ended up with the short format.”

Catrin said the FEI three-day event committee would support the executive board if it decided to allow Aachen to use the short-course format, but that future organisers of WEG should have the option to organise a long format if they have the facilities.

The news has come as a shock to the sport, as it was understood that the short format was introduced as a temporary measure to keep eventing in the Olympics and not for other championship events. No part of the original deal concerned the World Equestrian Games.

The FEI is trying to produce a parallel programme of long- and short-format events: if Aachen uses the short format, then it is proposed that there will be an individual championship in CCI format in the same year. But, despite this, the increased use of the short format has caused concern that it may be the beginning of the end for four-star CCIs as we know them.

“The future of the sport is completely up in the air. It has never been as uncertain as it is now,” said American-team trainer, Mark Phillips.

Read the full story, plus all the latest reports and results, in the September issue of Eventing magazine.

Click here to subscribe and enjoy Eventing delivered to your door and save up to 30%