In 2021 senior FEI riders will no longer be allowed to compete with “performance enhancing” boots. In many feature classes from two-star to five-star shows, we have seen an ever increasing number of clear rounds.
This is largely because our preparation of both horse and rider, and the tools we use, has developed so much.
Course-designers and officials feel they can’t make jumps bigger or tighten time more to solve the dilemma of too many clear rounds, but this extreme measure of banning such boots will put a huge divide between the elite and everyone else.
The elimination of performance boots makes perfect sense for ponies, childrens/juniors and young riders. For seniors, common sense would surely be to limit the use of the boots, rather than ban them all together.
There is a huge selection of hind boots which help a horses shape, from which some horses really benefit, so why couldn’t the first step to “improving” our sport be to ban all two-strap hind boots but allow competitors to use one-strap hind boots? Then we can all see the results.
If FEI officials think we still have too many clear rounds, then ban them all. Such extreme measures to curb and create new rules in the end could well discourage horsemanship. I’m sure some horses will be prepared at home to jump better behind, maybe through the use of measures not necessarily healthy for the horse. And inevitably, new methods to make horses more careful will emerge.
Better sport means better regulations of what works and not the extreme measures of banning everything all together.
Time is the test
Riders want to win prize money. Competing with maybe one or two down because your horse needs back boots will quickly lose its appeal. I would estimate that for the past decade or so, most horses in major classes have competed with some sort of performance enhancing boot.
So in the future we might see combinations with four and eight faults frequently be placed in these classes. But is that better sport? There are a lot of unknowns. Maybe course-designers will have to change their tactics and maybe we have just become so accustomed to using back boots for so long that our results actually won’t change that much. Only time will tell.
Ref Horse & Hound; 18 January 2018