The FEI’s rules and regulations for our sport are often made behind closed doors and without much rider consultation. Bans become imposed, red tape is introduced, and by the time it’s happened, it’s too late to do anything about it retrospectively.
Was it with this lack of sensible consultation of showjumpers that the “blood rule” — which states that any bleeding from the flanks, mouth or nose, or marks indicating excessive use of spurs will result in mandatory disqualification — was imposed?
Without doubt nobody wants to see riders digging holes in horses’ sides, causing unnecessary suffering. But surely the most common-sense solution is to re-examine the rule that’s in place? If a rider — such as Bertram Allen — accidently nicks their horse during the show, they should be given a verbal warning for their action. Upon a second violation, they should be automatically banned from that show. I’m sure this is an approach with which many top riders will agree.
I was also pleased to hear a rumour that one of the current rules recently put in place in Switzerland — the banning of draw reins in the warm-up and prize-giving at national shows — is unlikely to be enforced internationally.
In discussing the use of draw reins, you cannot compare dressage training with showjumping. We warm up and prepare differently and we expect different things from our horses. I’d like to see a dressage rider warming up with 20 others in a small collecting ring. When they are warming up, you can’t even open a bag of crisps.
If I have a young, spooky or nervous horse, I will sometimes use draw reins in the warm-up. They keep a horse in a better shape, help maintain their confidence and stop them from spinning and running away. It’s not about over-bending or bullying them; in professional hands they are a sensible aid for education.
A separate voice
In a positive move, there was discussion with the British team manager Di Lampard at Liverpool regarding the reintroduction of the British Riders Club. Through the club we can have a suitable voice independent from the British Showjumping lobby, and air our concerns and beliefs on how the sport should progress.
One issue I raised with Di concerned the number of British riders invited to compete at major shows in the UK. It costs a rider approximately £10,000 to take part in the two-star classes at the London Global Champions Tour — if not invited by the show. Pay-cards are being reviewed by the FEI, however if this practice is allowed to continue across the board, it’s a disaster for up-and-coming riders.
Our top riders should be given 12 places, with a further 12 reserved for young riders or our county show riders — they work hard to earn a living and are the lifeblood of the sport.
I have seen how difficult it is for the younger generation to get opportunities to jump at bigger shows. If we’re to have a future, we must invest in one.
Nina Barbour and her team showcased everything that was good about our country during Liverpool International, but especially the young riders, which was one of the best classes all week. Horse of the Year Show decided to omit it from their schedule — to me, one of the daftest decisions they’ve ever made.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 January 2016