An internet video clip of a rider repeatedly jabbing his horse’s reins before the FEI***** World Reining Final (18-22 May) has led to criticism of the way the governing body enforces its rules.

In the clip (below), US rider Craig Schmersal, who went on to win a silver medal, is seen continually jerking the reins with his horse in a rollkur outline, while a steward in the background appears to look on unconcerned.

The chief steward at the finals, held in Sweden, assured the FEI that “all practice sessions were within the rules”. But he admits that verbal warnings were issued to competitors.

FEI spokesman Ian Williams, director of non-Olympic sports at the FEI, told H&H that the federation “condemns all training methods that are contrary to horse welfare”.

He added: “Hyperflexion was defined as unacceptable by the FEI in 2010 and this applies across all disciplines.”

Prior to the incident, the FEI had set up three working groups to conduct a full review of reining, including stewards’ guidelines and permitted training practices. But the governing body is now looking into this case and has made two formal requests to the broadcasters for a copy of the unedited tape.

But Epona.tv has refused to supply footage.

“We are trying to establish the facts, but while Epona TV profess to be upholders of horse welfare, they will not assist the FEI so that we can properly undertake a full inquiry and act accordingly. We now have to proceed without a key piece of evidence,” said FEI secretary general Ingmar de Vos.

Epona’s Julie Taylor said: “The fact the FEI is asking for our raw footage underlines its inability to enforce rules. A retrospective inquiry appears to be more of a clueless attempt at disaster management.”

The new reining regulations will be voted on at the FEI’s general assembly in November and, if passed, will come into force in January 2012.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 June, 2011)