Debate rages over 50pen flag rule at Adelaide Horse Trials

  • A decision to remove penalties from Australian event rider Stuart Tinney’s cross-country round in the Adelaide CCI4* on Saturday (18 November) has sparked heated debate.

    Stuart was riding 12-year-old grey gelding War Hawk, owned by Corinna and Darren Huskinson, K Tinney and himself, when the pair had a slight miscommunication at a triple brush in a water complex.

    As a result, 50 jumping penalties were added to Stuart’s score under a new FEI rule for 2017, for missing a flag. The rule states that a horse is considered to have run out if  “having been presented at an element or obstacle on the course, it avoids it in such a way that the head, neck or either shoulder of the horse fails to pass between the extremities of the element or obstacle as flagged”.

    The rider can choose to accept 20 penalties and re-present, or continue if they believe the horse jumped cleanly, but will be given 50 penalties if the fence judge decides the horse ran out. In the past, the combination would have been eliminated if they carried on without re-presenting when the fence judge decided they had run out.

    Stuart did not lodge an appeal, but after reviewing footage, after the cross-country phase had finished, the ground jury decided to remove the 50 penalties based on the picture below.

    Megan Jones, with Kirby Park Impress, was also given 50 penalties under the same rule, but went on to finish second after the penalties were removed.

    Meanwhile, the 50 penalties collected by Hazel Shannon, riding WillingaPark Clifford, remained in place after footage was reviewed.

    On Sunday morning, a group of riders approached the ground jury to ask members to reconsider their decision. Hazel was represented by lawyer Kathryn Howard during an appeal.

    The final decision on all the riders’ 50 penalties was made 90 minutes before the final phase of the four-star was due to start.

    Megan Jones, who was the rider representative at the event, had the ground jury’s decision fully explained to her. She shared what the ground jury said in a video.

    She said: “They discovered the horse did actually jump the fence as it’s stated in the rules: A horse will be considered to have cleared the fence when head and neck and both shoulders of the horse pass between the extremities of the element or obstacle as flagged,” she explains. “The flag went between Stuart’s horse’s front legs, but his head, neck and shoulders were inside the flag.”

    Stuart and War Hawk went on to showjump clear for third place — the pair would have finished in 11th place had the penalties not been removed.

    The event was won by Clarke Johnstone of New Zealand riding Balmoral Sensation.

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