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World-class show centre and national federation reach agreement after dispute

United States Equestrian (USEF) and the Word Equestrian Center (WEC) in Florida will “work together in the best interest of the sport” in order for the centre to host sanctioned competitions.

The news follows an earlier dispute in which the USEF withdrew all WEC hunter/jumper competition licences after the centre announced plans to host shows sanctioned by the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA) as part the Ocala Winter Spectacular, a 12-week winter hunter/jumper show circuit from 6 January to 28 March.

In an open letter on 11 November, USEF said WEC’s arrangement of combining USEF and NSBA competitions in the same 12-week series was “confusing” to participants and officials, and “jeopardised” horse and human safety and welfare. USEF notified the FEI that these events were unauthorised, meaning the FEI could decide whether it would apply the unsanctioned event rule. This states that any FEI official, registered athlete or horse who participates in an unsanctioned event faces up to six months of ineligibility to participate in FEI competitions and so also national competitions.

On the same day WEC said in a “show of good faith” and in an effort to work with the federation, the centre would release an updated schedule and prize list with $4m (£2,950,000) in prizes and prize money, and free stabling.

In a joint statement between USEF and WEC on 30 December the organisations said they had “agreed to work together” on a plan for the centre to host USEF-sanctioned competitions in the future.

“USEF and WEC agree that it is in the best interest of the sport for them to work collaboratively,” read the statement.

“Formulating this plan will require some time for both USEF and WEC to meet and consider what is best for equestrian sport and all of its stakeholders, while prioritising horse and rider welfare, and operating under the rules that govern all USEF organisers”.

The statement added that to allow time for the process, USEF has withdrawn its request to the FEI to declare the 2021 Ocala Winter Classic Spectacular unsanctioned, so riders, officials and horses may compete without being sanctioned by the FEI or USEF.

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“Assuming development of a mutually agreed upon plan, WEC has agreed not to host any other new competitions that are not authorised by USEF. USEF recognises WEC’s existing relationship with the NSBA and that WEC will endeavour to include NSBA within such authorised competitions,” it read.

“In agreeing to this interim measure, the USEF considered how important it was for its members to have abundant competition opportunities this winter following a period during which many events were cancelled because of Covid-19.”

The organisations said the “shared goal” is to have a plan agreed in the coming weeks, which will then be shared publicly.

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