Top event riders call for review of penalties given when frangible clips or pins break

  • THERE are growing calls for the FEI to re-examine the automatic 11 penalties given for breaking a frangible device across country in international eventing.

    Michael Jung lost out on winning his third consecutive Olympic individual title in Tokyo by breaking a yellow MIMclip – this type of MIMclip was introduced this year and is used at fences jumped at an angle, such as corners. It breaks with less force than the traditional red MIMclip.

    Olympic gold medallist Oliver Townend and 2018 Burghley winner Tim Price both finished in the top 10 at Bicton five-star last week, but lost placings because they received 11 penalties for breaking frangible pins.

    While riders recognise the value of frangible devices in making eventing safer, they are questioning whether it’s right that horses are always penalised if a device breaks.

    Oliver said: “We’ve trained these horses to drop the back legs on a vertical going into a coffin to jump the ditch correctly and jump out safely, and I think the FEI need to realise what the top riders want. There isn’t a five-star rider in the world that agrees with the penalties for the pins.

    “The pins are a safety thing and I do believe if the ground jury decide it saved a fall, then award 11 penalties, but just to be handing these 11 penalties out to good horses that have done a very safe, correct job – it’s not cross-country any more.”

    William Fox-Pitt, who has won 14 five-stars, said ahead of the Bicton cross-country: “The devices were introduced to save lives, not to give you 11 penalties, and now they are becoming a big factor in eventing that we are all concerned about. I’m really hoping we can look at what we do.”

    William said he would be in favour of penalties only being awarded if the horse had broken the device by hitting the fence with a front leg.

    “If you have a pin with a back leg and manage to stand up, good on you, it’s eventing. But if you have it in front, that maybe has saved your life and you should be penalised,” he said.

    There is already a proposal to change the FEI eventing rules to include an addition to the wording around when 11 penalties are given. The current wording says “Activating a frangible device where the dimension of the fence is modified”, while the new proposals add after this “if one of the frangible device clips clearly breaks (hook clearly opens from the bolt)”.

    An FEI spokesperson said: “In accordance with the rules revision process, the stakeholder feedback on the eventing committee proposals will be reviewed in the coming weeks before the final draft is submitted for approval at the FEI General Assembly in November.”

    If approved, this change would come in for the 2022 season.

    The FEI also issued an update on 30 August saying the FEI frangible device working group has agreed with MIM that the bolt should not be removed when fitting yellow MIMclip kits at all levels. This change will increase the amount of force needed to break the clips on these kits.

    This update was “not directly related to the Olympic Games but to new information and best practice analysis”, said the FEI spokesperson.

    Both the proposed rule change and the fitting instruction alteration are relevant only to the penalties incurred for activation of MIMclips; neither affect penalties given for breaking a frangible pin.

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