FEI to work with riders on ‘chaotic’ tack app issues

  • The FEI will work with riders to ease teething problems with its new tack app, which was designed to make life simpler but has instead resulted in confusion and “chaos”.

    The FEI TackApp launched in May with the aim of being a one-stop shop for riders, grooms and officials in any discipline to check what equipment is, and is not, allowed. But monthly updates have resulted in frustration.

    Certain riders have found themselves having to change a bit at the last minute, owing to previously allowed equipment being outlawed. Questions have also been raised as to whether or not information on the app was actually a binding FEI rule this year – it was being treated as such, yet it has only recently been approved to replace the FEI tack guidelines from 1 January 2024.

    Discussions came to a head at the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) annual meeting (8 December).

    “The reality is this app confuses the entire situation,” said former Olympic champion Ludger Beerbaum. “I’ve been twice confronted this year with a silly rule, where a leather bit was not allowed any more – nothing to find in the rules – and we had to change it 10 horses before we went in the ring in the grand prix, so that’s really strange and it should not happen.

    “We have to change this for the better. With all the other rules, we have been told that we can only change them once a year at the next general assembly. But this, which really matters, you have made such chaos, so we have to change it to be very clear.”

    European team bronze medallist Max Kühner also voiced concern over perception and urged the FEI to think carefully about how changes are communicated, adding that riders are made to feel like “criminals” for having ever used equipment that is subsequently not permitted.

    “Things being changed from weekend to weekend, and when you come to a championship and in the warm-up they take out your bit, because [the app has] changed two days ago – I think that’s not the way a federation should act at all,” he said.

    “We need to have trust in the rules, and we need to have the possibility to adjust if you change things.”

    German rider Richard Vogel said bringing in new rules each month complicates matters, and that a sudden change of equipment with no time to adapt is not necessarily beneficial to horse welfare.

    London 2012 team gold medallist Peter Charles said: “I’ve been around a long time, and if you want to make things work well, keep it simple. My God, you are making it complicated.

    “The tack app is absolutely confusing the job. You should have a gelling-in period. You shouldn’t have this [changing] every month, once a year would be plenty. If you’re going to do it, then do it every three months. Advertise [changes on] your app a month before, so the riders have a chance to adjust – whether it’s a bit, whether it’s a bit of tack. You’re making things so complicated for people.”

    An FEI spokesman told H&H the aim of the app was to have information about equipment, tack and dress “easily available in a user-friendly and consistent manner” for everyone in “one place”.

    “Most of the items designated as ‘not permitted’ in the FEI TackApp were either already not permitted according to the previously mentioned guidelines and/or applicable discipline rules,” said the spokesman, adding that updates are done on the first Monday of the month.

    “Prior to the FEI TackApp, there was no clarity, transparency and consistency in permitting or not permitting some of the items given the fact that they were not necessarily described in the discipline rules or guidelines.

    “Some stewards would allow the use of such equipment at an FEI event and other stewards would not permit its use, thus having contradicting decisions.”

    The spokesman added that the app allows the FEI equipment expert group to review tack for all disciplines simultaneously, and that once the bulk of the work is done in the coming months, the number of new items uploaded will “diminish significantly”.

    “We understand that since its launch, frequent changes to the items in the app and their status, have been felt as overwhelming and abrupt by jumping athletes,” said the spokesman.

    “We have decided to create an advisory group specific for jumping in addition to the already existing equipment expert group and invited the IJRC to select certain of its members to be a part of this advisory group.”

    He added the app is a “work in progress”, every new item will appear in the “recently updated” section, and that the FEI is working on developing notification alerts in future.

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