The governing body of international horse sport is reeling at the news that Michael Stone had resigned as secretary general of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

Mr Stone’s departure, over “irreconcilable differences in the future direction of the FEI”, was announced on Friday, 24 August. He is the third FEI secretary general to resign suddenly in three years.

FEI bureau member and secretary general of the German Equestrian Federation Dr Hanfried Haring told H&H the resignation was a “total surprise”.

“I regret it very much because we have worked with Michael for many years — before the FEI, when he was at Equestrian Federation of Ireland [EFI]. From our perspective, he did such a good job,” said Dr Haring.

“It is a concern that there have been three secretary generals in two years — for the ongoing work of the FEI, for the staff who must feel uncomfortable and for the image of the FEI as well.”

In May 2005, then secretary general Bo Helander resigned, unhappy that the FEI’s modernisation process was being “rushed”. What should take two years, he said, was being rushed through in nine months. He, like Michael Stone, resigned after 10 years with the FEI.

In September 2005, former management consultant Jean-Claude Falciola was appointed secretary general. But Falciola departed suddenly in April 2006, succeeded a month later by former FEI sports director Michael Stone, who stepped in as acting secretary general. In May, it emerged that Bo Helander was given a “substantial” payout when he left his role “voluntarily”.

In August 2006, Michael Stone took over permanently as secretary general.

At the time, he told H&H: “I feel honoured to be selected, at a time when the FEI is clearly striving to change its tempo and direction.”

Princess Haya, who was elected president on 1 May 2006, in turn said she was “delighted” with Michael’s permanent appointment. She later admitted in her 2006 annual report that the FEI had been through “turbulent times” with the changes at top level.

A replacement secretary general is not being sought at present, with the day-to-day management of the FEI being led by deputy secretary general Alex Mc Lin, together with Princess Haya.

Mr Mc Lin said there was “no common thread” between the departure of each of the three secretary generals.

H&H was unable to contact Michael Stone for comment.

Read this story in full in Horse & Hound (30 August, ’07)