Olympic teams will consist of three combinations and drop scores will be removed, it has been agreed, as part of major changes to the Games’ format.

National federations today (22 November) voted in favour of the format changes, at the FEI general assembly in Tokyo.

Reserve combinations will still be allowed “but will be even more important and a key element in ensuring horse welfare”, an FEI spokesman said.

“This was a really important vote for the future of our sport if we are to increase universality in accordance with the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020”, said FEI president Ingmar De Vos said after the vote.

“We need to increase the number of participating nations at the Olympic Games but within our existing quota of 200.

“Reducing team members to three per nation was probably the only way to boost the number of flags. Of course this now has to be approved by the IOC, but it opens the door to countries that previously could only see the Olympics as a distant dream.”

Of the 107 national federations represented at the conference, 11 – including France, Germany and New Zealand – voted against the new format.

A number of changes to each discipline were also voted through, including a new heat system involving “lucky losers” to qualify for the dressage grand prix freestyle.

Related articles:

These were voted through unanimously, although Britain was the only nation to vote against changes to para dressage, which include allowing each team only to bring four combinations.

“There were some national federations that didn’t agree with the proposal, but that’s all part of the democratic process,” said Mr De Vos. Now we need to work together to make this a success.”

The format change is subject to final approval by the International Olympic Committee next year.

The changes:

Showjumping:

  • 20 teams
  • 15 slots for nations which did not qualify a team, one combination per nation
  • Individual event will take place before the team competition
  • The exact cut-off score and resulting penalty, and the penalty for elimination, will be finalised

Dressage:

  • One individual per nation not qualified as a team (no composite teams)
  • Team medals will be decided on the grand prix special results only (as opposed to the current combination of grand prix and grand prix special)
  • A new heat system to qualify for the special: the top two from each of six heats, plus the next six overall best results
  • Top eight teams from the grand prix to qualify for the special
  • A new system for starting order in the grand prix
  • Run the grand prix special to music

Eventing:

  • If a reserve combination is substituted in, the team will incur a penalty, which is to be finalised
  • Two individuals allowed per nation not qualified as a team
  • Order to remain unchanged — dressage, cross-country, showjumping — but dressage to be reduced to one day
  • Technical level to be defined as “Olympic level”: 4* dressage and showjumping, 3* technical difficulty cross-country, with 45 jumping efforts and 10-minute optimum time
  • Qualification to be achieved on the same cross-country technical level
  • For team classification, any combination not completing a phase can progress to the next if accepted as fit to continue
  • For team classification, penalties for not completing a phase will be 100 for dressage and showjumping, 150 for cross-country
  • Individual rules are unchanged

Para dressage

  • Each directly qualified team may bring four combinations, of which three will be declared for the team after the individual test in which all four will compete
  • Maximum of two individuals per nation not represented as a team (no composite teams)
  • Team medals to be determined solely through team test, as opposed to the current combination of team and individual scores
  • Top eight per grade to qualify for the freestyle
  • The order will be individual championship, team test, freestyle
  • Team test to be set to music