The FEI is considering changing the name of the sport of eventing to equestrian triathlon.

The federation’s eventing group met last month in Lausanne to kickstart the development of a strategic plan, which will be presented to the National Federations at the end of 2005. Among various ideas, delegates discussed whether to change the name of the sport from eventing to equestrian triathlon.

It was agreed that the FEI will commission an independent study on the change — which was first proposed at the annual meeting of the United States Equestrian Federation in January — before considering incorporating it in to the strategic plan.

If the proposal does go ahead, however, it wouldn’t be the first time the sport has changed its name. Eventing started life known as “the military,” which reflected its origins as a test for army horses.

It later became known internationally as Concours Complet (French for complete competition) — hence the acronym CCI (Concours Complet International) to designate events. While the sport remains known as Complet in countries such as France or Italy, the English-speaking world agonised over finding the right name for it. Horse Trials was popular in the early nineties and, although the name is still used, eventing was the name that found favour.

“We have been round this block several times. It’s a very old one,” says Julian Seaman, a former board member of the British Horse Trials Association (now British Eventing) and a self-confessed traditionalist. “In Britain we debated this to death. Eventually, we plumped for eventing.”

Some people, however, felt that eventing didn’t capture the essence of the sport and lobbied for a more descriptive name, which they believed would help attract more riders and more spectators. Equestrian pentathlon was suggested at one stage, because the sport had five phases. With the short format taking over, equestrian triathlon became a more logical option and has now made it to the FEI’s eventing committee.

However, news of the proposal came as a suprise to many eventing enthusiasts in Britain. British Eventing said they would discuss it at a later meeting, while Annabel Brunner of the Event Horse Owners Association planned to circulate it among the association’s members.

“I can see reasoning behind it, which is obviously the idea that event horses is doing three-phases, as opposed to show jumping and dressage doing only one test,” says Brunner. “But whether this is right way to go, I would have to give it some thought.

“My first reaction is that triathlon is so associated with these three sports, you instantly think of biking, swimming and running. Whether [changing eventing’s name to equestrian triathlon] would make the general public more knowledgeable about our sport is open to debate.”

Meanwhile, traditionalists like Seaman remain convinced that “eventing is perfectly fine. Equestrian triathlon is very literal and not very elegant,” he says. “It’s a bit of a mouthful. You can explain that eventing is an equestrian triathlon but there is no need to change the name of sport. [After all] tennis isn’t called hitting-bally-over-netty.”