Blood and whip rule changes in store after high-profile cases

  • The FEI is working on changing its rules on cases of blood and whip use in eventing following two high-profile incidents.

    A spokesman for the organisation confirmed that the eventing committee is working on proposals, which it is understood will be announced next month, and put to the vote at the FEI general assembly in November.

    The news follows controversy surrounding US eventer Marilyn Little, whose ride RF Scandalous was pictured with blood in her mouth on the cross-country at the Kentucky Three-Day Event (28 April), and British rider Oliver Townend, who was given an official warning for over-use of the whip on cross-country day at Badminton the following week (5 May).

    An FEI spokesman said: “The FEI eventing committee is currently working on proposals to strengthen the eventing rules regarding blood on the horse and a redefinition of the whip action allowed during competition with the express purpose of providing clarity for athletes, officials and everyone who follows the sport”.

    H&H reported in the 10 May edition that the Marilyn Little incident had reignited debate over “inconsistency” in blood rules between disciplines, while Oliver’s case had led to calls for tightening of the whip rules in eventing.

    FEI eventing rules state that not all cases of blood mean elimination and that in minor cases, “such as where a horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding”, the ground jury may allow riders to continue, following investigation and consultation with the vet.

    But the dressage rules state that fresh blood in a horse’s mouth during or at the end of a test means elimination. Under showjumping rules, officials may authorise wiping in “minor cases” of blood in the mouth, after which “any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in elimination”, and any blood on the horse’s flank also leads to elimination. There is no mention of blood in current endurance rules.

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    An FEI spokesman told H&H the differences are due to the disciplines’ different requirements, adding that the eventing rules “have a clear rule on welfare of the horse and a provision allowing for a review of blood on the horse”.

    Oliver’s warning fell under FEI eventing rules on use of the whip.

    The rules specify places the horse cannot be hit, such as on the head, as well as after the final fence, and state that whips cannot be used more than three times for any one incident, but do not specify a total number of times the whip can be used within a round or timeframe.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.

    This week’s edition (17 May) features a full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show, including all the showing, showjumping and dressage action. We go behind the scenes with the Household Cavalry as they prepare for the royal wedding, plus check out our interview with Irish eventer Padraig McCarthy.

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