Plan to allow dressage riders to ditch their spurs completely at top level

  • Dressage riders who opt to compete spurless in international competitions will no longer have to wear “dummy spurs” from next year, if a proposed rule change is given the nod of approval.

    Spurs, or dummy spurs – which give the look of wearing a spur but have no shank – are already optional at all levels in national competition.

    But they are compulsory in all international dressage competitions, with the exception of ponies and children-on-horses. The International Dressage Officials Club (IDOC) is suggesting to change that – and has the FEI’s support.

    “Since ‘dummy spurs’ are allowed, it seems archaic that a rider would have to purchase these spurs when they could just as easily be allowed to go spurless,” stated the IDOC, in the first draft of FEI rule changes for 2024.

    This is just a suggestion at this stage. The FEI rules revision process means stakeholders have until 16 August to give feedback, before the final draft is created. National federations will vote on the 2024 rules at the general assembly in November.

    H&H reported last week on other key proposals in this first draft. These include an “equestrian charter”, tweaks to qualification rules for event horses returning to four- and five-star after a break, noseband tightness and more (news, 6 July).

    “At the heart of the FEI’s mission lies an unwavering commitment to horse welfare,” said FEI secretary general Sabrina Ibáñez said. “This year, we have been fortunate to receive insightful horse welfare-oriented proposals from the national federations and stakeholders alike.”

    More research is needed before the FEI will take a stance on whether it will allow double bridles to be optional for international grand prix.

    H&H has covered previous discussions on the subject (news, 30 September and 15 October 2022). Now, the Dutch and Swedish federations have both proposed that riders should be allowed to choose to use a snaffle bridle at CDI3* and above. Both claim that it “does not comply with the welfare of the horse” to keep double bridles mandatory if riders believe it better to compete a horse in a snaffle.

    The FEI dressage technical committee has replied, stating it has “the unanimous understanding that the use of snaffle or double bridle is a technical (sport) matter and not a matter of wellbeing/welfare”.

    “We understand the topic of social (media) perception, but from the results of the online survey that were made available to this committee, we could not find scientific evidence, nor unquestionable data, that allow us to reach a different conclusion at this moment,” stated the committee.

    “It is time to gather a multi-disciplinary team, which includes experts from all stakeholders, to develop study/research to understand all pros and cons about the proposed change. Once this study/research is carried out, we will be in [a position] to have an informed, conscious and well-balanced opinion on the matter.”

    H&H has contacted the FEI to ask for more information on this research.

    In a separate proposal, the IDOC called for elimination for horses found with fresh blood in the warm-up. The FEI veterinary department responded to state it “believes the current rule works well and doesn’t see any need for change”. H&H has asked the FEI for more details on this explanation.

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