Dressage riders who take the wrong course could be suffer much harsher penalties under a potential new rule.

It is one of two new regulations that will be mooted at the FEI’s general assembly in Puerto Rico (10-13 November).

The first concerns the penalty for an error of course, with the proposals recommending a 3% reduction from the final score for the first error, and elimination for the second.

Under current rules, two marks are deducted from each judge for the first error and four for the second, with the third triggering elimination.

The FEI’s Frank Kemperman explained that the proposed rule change “brought dressage more in line with jumping, where a single error of course means elimination”.

American rider Catherine Haddad, Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer and judge Katrina Wüst all voiced their objections, the latter stating that “judges would be put in an extremely difficult position” should the rule be carried.

“What if we remember to ring the bell for one and not the other? The riders will appeal. I am totally against this,” she said. “A grand prix horse who can’t piaffe could therefore be penalised less than a rider who takes a little bit of a wrong line.”

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Another trainer stated it would be “catastrophic for children — they’d never want to ride with this additional pressure”.

The rules surrounding ear covers will also be debated. Currently they are only allowed in outdoor competitions and as fly protection. The proposal is for ear covers to be sanctioned in all competitions and to allow a degree of noise reduction — though ear plugs would still remain permitted only in prize-givings.

British Dressage’s Paul Graham said that no immediate changes would be made to national rules, regardless of the outcome of the general assembly.

Our rules will stand for 2016, but we’d let any new rules of this nature bed down in international competition for a year and look to adopt them in December 2016,” he said.

The relaxation of the ear cover rules comes on the back of the threat to equestrian disciplines of being dropped from the Olympic roster. Measures such as this are being considered to make dressage more exciting and accessible for spectators, particularly those unfamiliar with the sport. If horses wear noise-reducing ear covers, spectators could be encouraged to be more vocal during tests and prize-givings without frightening them.

Ref: H&H 5/11/15