The blood rule is part of a package of horse welfare that needs to be brought back into context, so I am pleased to see the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) has been making recommendations to the FEI.
When you have a high-profile incident such as Bertram Allen’s — when he was disqualified for a spur mark after winning the Olympia grand prix in 2015 — it quickly brings the situation to the fore.
Bertram was the perfect example of the rule gone wrong, as it was clear that he doesn’t abuse the horse. The officials were applying the letter of the law — that the presence of blood equated to automatic disqualification — but it brought home the need to be able to apply common sense.
It wasn’t an isolated incident: William Funnell and Guy Williams also fell foul of the rule within the next year.
No one disagrees that a rider using sharp spurs to kick or gouge a horse should be banned but a small mark where skin has accidentally been broken is not abuse and shouldn’t be treated as such. I haven’t seen any rider intentionally hurt a horse with spurs.
For me, the correct procedure would be one in which yellow or red cards are brought into play instead of automatic disqualification.
The IJRC is keen that officials be allowed to use their discretion and there is good mutual respect between them and the FEI, so I think the FEI will take on board the IJRC’s concerns about the severity of the rule.
What riders want is clarity on the issue, and a consistent ruling. It will be the FEI’s task to ensure it can be implemented consistently.
If rules like this aren’t challenged, horse welfare can be pushed to the point at which it becomes ridiculous. For example, in Sweden all forms of support aids are banned at competition, including ice boots and massage machines. We don’t want to go down that road.
At the moment, I am in Mijas, Spain, and it’s interesting to see there are around 2,500 horses registered with British Showjumping (BS) currently jumping on foreign tours.
It’s a testament to the growth of the sport that the tours in Vilamoura, in Portugal, Mijas and Oliva Nova, in Spain, and the original Sunshine tour, are full — it’s the first time I’ve seen them booked out.
I heard that in response to the demand they are planning to build another venue at Valderrama. It’s already a high-profile destination for golf and polo, and only about 80 miles from Mijas. Their intention is to build the jewel in the crown of the Sunshine tours and it sounds amazing.
Another thing I’ve discovered while I’ve been out here is John Whitaker’s secret weapon. Now I see how he is able to turn up at shows and go really well on a new bunch of horses — his secret weapon is his daughter, Louise!
She is a fabulous rider and is more than equipped for the job if she ever decides to take it seriously at the top level. I imagine it is every rider’s dream to have a rider like that working to produce young and second-string horses.
Ref Horse & Hound; 23 February 2017