What’s in a name: mules could be out as FEI re-defines ‘horses’

Mules could be excluded from FEI competitions from 2020.

The Italian national federation has proposed to amend the definition of “horse” in the FEI general regulations to “clarify that mules are not considered as horses and therefore cannot compete in FEI competitions”. The FEI has voiced its support for the change.

While from a competition point of view this is fairly academicH&H is not aware of any mules having competed at FEI competitions — the definition was crucial in the decision to allow mules to compete at national dressage shows in Britain.

The Italian federation’s proposal continues: “This current definition of “horse” leave the opportunity to compete to the mule also. It seems useful that the general assembly be aware on this possibility to allow to compete horses and mules together mixing two different genetic animal (horse and mule that is an hybrid from horse mare and donkey stallion).

“This situation (compare two different animals from within different genetic characteristics) seems to be incorrect for both, horses and mules, considering their physiological, biomechanical and ethological characteristics and may affect the historical perception of equestrian sport.”

The feedback from the FEI in the draft proposal states that the change is “supported by the FEI veterinary department and FEI board”.

The current definition states that a “horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from a mare.”

The new wording is suggested as: “Horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from the union of a mare and a horse stallion and classified as equus caballus.”

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In 2018, Wallace The Great hit H&H and national headlines over his quest to compete at affiliated dressage.

His rider, Christie Mclean, was initially refused British Dressage (BD) club membership for the mule and was told that only horses and ponies could be registered.

This was then discussed and overturned at a full board meeting of BD directors, who consulted with the FEI and decided to adopt the international federation’s wording.

The proposal can be found in the first draft of changes to the FEI general regulations for 2020. These will now be discussed by national federations and stakeholders before a second draft is produced in the autumn, which will then be voted on at the FEI general assembly in Moscow (16 to 19 November).

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