Opinion

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News has reached me that, following the success of the Event Rider Masters (ERM) series, the FEI has plans to run its own series at CIC3* level. ERM is really taking off and looks like it is about to sign a major sponsor — we hope it is just the beginning for this exciting, innovative series, and for the FEI to set something up in opposition to that can only detract from it.

The FEI tried to run its own CIC3* series a few years ago — the eventing World Cup — and it didn’t work; there is a real lack of faith in its ability to do the job properly.

On the subject of the FEI, I believe that Giuseppe della Chiesa is due to step down in September from the chairmanship of its eventing committee. This would be a good time for the organisation to look at its structure and how it is run.

For much of my career, the FEI was the governing body of eventing and no one questioned it. But times and the sport have moved on and it is clear that it is not functioning as a modern-day governing body, for the other horse sports as well as eventing, should. The secrecy with which it shrouds itself, its processes and its decision-making causes tension among the sport’s stakeholders.

Take, for example, the changes to the Olympic format. Virtually every nation was against the three-horse rule, and likewise the decision to reduce the World Championships to three-star, but still the FEI forced it through, ignoring the wishes of two major stake-holders — owners and riders.

It still seems unclear how exactly the Olympic format will work. When are they going to tell us? And where are they going to test it — at the World Equestrian Games?

The FEI has also this year introduced a rule whereby 50 penalties are given if you attempt to jump a skinny, are judged to be outside the flags but carry on without retaking the fence. Surely you are either over the fence or you aren’t? There are often cameras on fences where flags are likely to be knocked off, so decisions can be made quickly — but awarding penalties is crazy and makes the sport ever more complicated. You’re either in or out.

There’s going to be an open meeting for riders at Badminton to discuss these and other topics, and I urge everybody involved in the sport to come and have their say — not just older riders like me, but the younger generations as well.

Clashing dates

It’s great that ERM is expanding into Europe this year, but it is a real shame that the first event outside Britain — at Wiesbaden in Germany — clashes with Tattersalls. I would love to have supported ERM there, but taking one horse to Wiesbaden when we can take several to Tattersalls for their variety of classes doesn’t make sense.

Prize money bump

A cheerful note to end — Belton was a lovely event this year, with a record crowd and excellent going. It was great to finish second in the main class, but even better to get a note through the post from organiser Stuart Buntine saying that the prize money had been upped. Instead of receiving £1,500, I won £1,800, which was a nice surprise!

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 April 2017