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Eventer Emily King has hit an unusual problem: she has two horses ready to run at three-star level, but because she is 17, the rules prevent her from competing them.

The junior individual silver medallist had planned to enter Barbury CIC3* and Boekelo CCI3* this season, having competed in three advanced classes and seven two-stars. But she discovered she was too young — FEI rules state that competitors must be 18.

She told H&H: “I know they must take precautions, but I have two horses ready that need a test this year — they’ll be getting on by the time I’m 18.

“It seems bizarre when we’re capable at that level — Mr Hiho was third in an advanced.”

Although British Eventing (BE) rules give discretion to the junior chairman of selectors as to whether under-18s can compete at “two-star and higher”, the FEI rules governing all international competition limit these classes to senior athletes. Exceptions apply only up to two-star level.

Few juniors are ready for three-star and FEI exceptions to the age restrictions do not mention CCI3*.

“Most countries set the age of majority to 18,” said the FEI’s director of eventing
Catrin Norinder.

“It is the FEI’s duty to ensure that athletes are sufficiently mature physically and mentally to take charge of themselves and their horses.”

Emily King’s case, though unusual, is not isolated. In 2009, Althea Bleekman completed the CCI3* at Hartpury before being eliminated the following week for being underage.

But another junior prodigy, Laura Collett, now 23 — who competed in two three-stars the year she turned 18 — said it would be “controversial” to open the level up to all juniors.

“If they have the experience, they may well be ready,” she told H&H.

“But [changing the rules] might encourage riders to compete on the minimum qualifications, which would be a worry.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (20 June 2013)