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The FEI (horse sport’s international governing body) has amended its controversial new qualification rules that left several top event riders ineligible to compete at the higher level. But some say the changes still have not gone far enough.

The rules grade international riders from D-A on their results over the previous eight years. Those who do not reach the required level to be categorised are deemed “uncategorised”.

This had left former Olympic champion Blyth Tait, who had been out of the sport for seven years, uncategorised. It meant that he needed to return to the lowest levels with any new horse he took on, even if it had previously competed at four-star level.

But the amendments should help iron out anomalies such as this and make it easier to obtain a category in the first instance.

The base requirement for achieving a category will be 15 qualifying results at that level.

Plans for this number to increase to 20 in 2014 have now been scrapped. Riders who have five qualifying results at a given level are now automatically categorised at the level below — even if they don’t have the 15 results.

And any categorised rider can now enter directly at two-star — provided they meet their national federation requirements.

“I still need to gain my initial qualifications to be categorised, but in the long term, it will save putting extra mileage on my horses,” Blyth told H&H.

But rider Louisa Milne Home says the amendments are still unnecessarily prohibitive.

She is still not qualified to take her new ride, the experienced Porthill Rusty Nail, to Badminton because they have not had the necessary runs
as a combination.

This is despite Louisa having been accepted for the event on her other ride, King Eider and having three four-star completions to her name.

“Had I known about the changes last year I would have campaigned him [Porthill Rusty Nail] differently,” she said. “The horse is 16 now, so it’s not like he has years ahead of him.”

Francis Whittington, chairman of the Event Riders’ Association (ERA), which lobbied for the adjustments and delivered a petition containing 1455 signatures to the FEI, welcomed the news.

He said: “While the amendments still may not suit everyone, the ERA believes that the concept of categorisation is a good one and will be beneficial to safety and the development of the sport.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (28 March 2013)