Proposed U-turn on controversial FEI dressage rule change

  • The FEI is set to reverse a controversial dressage rule change that increased the qualifying score needed to progress in CDI4* and CDI5* shows.

    Since the start of this year, riders have had to score at least 65% in the grand prix to participate in the grand prix special or the freestyle at CDI4* and CDI5* shows. The rule was not received well when it was introduced and caused disappointment among riders and event organisers.

    The CDI4* at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington only had six combinations progress to the freestyle as a result of the rule and several riders described the change as not in line with the FEI’s mandate to promote participation and interest in the sport.

    It has now been proposed that the qualifying percentage should revert to 60%.

    The proposal to reverse the rule was brought forward by the German and British federations as well as the International Dressage Officials Club. It is included in the latest draft of FEI changes for 2024, which will be voted on at the FEI general assembly this month (18-21 November).

    British Olympic dressage rider Richard Davison, who also helps organise the CDI4* at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, told H&H he welcomed the decision to reverse the 65% rule.

    “I think keeping the 60% cut-off is the right thing to do, and if this change reflects [new FEI dressage director] Ronan Murphy’s receptiveness to stakeholder feedback that’s also a positive,” he said.

    “From an organiser’s point of view, and for the fairness of the riders, it would be interesting to know if even the 60% cut-off is justified by data or if it’s just an arbitrary figure.

    “At a recent meeting I chaired in Belgium, with the International Dressage Riders Club and the International Dressage Trainers Club, Ronan pledged to align with us on using evidence and data-based figures to make changes like this one. If this most recent decision reflects that, then I think it’s the right way forward.”

    Another proposed dressage rule change, to abolish minimum qualification requirements to enter CDI4*s and Western European World Cup qualifiers, has been rejected.

    “We don’t agree with the part of keeping 63% as the entry requirement for a CDI4*/CDIO4,” said the European Equestrian Federation. “It prevents new and potential top combinations from competing immediately on a higher level.”

    The German federation agreed, adding: “Apart from the rationale already expressed, a main factor is that organisers of CDI4* have difficulties to get enough starters.”

    The FEI responded to the feedback by saying that maintaining a qualification percentage of 63% at CDI3* to qualify for CDI4* “promotes participation in CDI3* events, and is a straightforward way of qualification”.

    On the wider changes the FEI are introducing, including measures to moderate athletes’ and officials’ social media use, Richard was curious as to whether these will result in an increase in the number of appeals to any disciplinary sanctions arising from them.

    “The FEI consistently emphasises that these new regulations come from their external lawyers,” he said. “While I do think safeguarding and the idea of policies are good, where sanctions or definitions are involved it’s important for those drafting them to understand the nature of that particular sport in order to achieve the desired effect and also to avoid unnecessary consequences.”

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