Outrage over blood in mouth rule inconsistencies *H&H VIP*

  • The FEI has no immediate plans to revisit “blood rules”, despite the contradictions highlighted by incidents last month involving British dressage rider Anna Ross (pictured above riding Die Callas at a different show) and US eventer Marilyn Little.

    Anna was eliminated from the Le Mans CDI after blood was found in Die Callas’ mouth during the steward’s inspection after she had finished her grand prix test. She would have finished second had she not been eliminated.

    However, Marilyn went unpenalised despite allegations there was blood in the mouth of RF Scandalous at Boekelo (8-11 October) and then RF West Indie at Fair Hill on consecutive weekends.

    FEI veterinary regulations cover blood, but some disciplines have additional bespoke rules.

    FEI dressage and eventing dressage have zero tolerance for blood on any part of the horse’s body.

    However, if blood is spotted during cross-country, the horse can be stopped, examined, and resume its round upon veterinary approval.

    After the elimination of Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival NOP at the World Equestrian Games in 2010, it emerged that the cited blood rule did not exist. The FEI dressage committee then drew up a clear, new rule, but the FEI did not take the opportunity to review blood rules across all disciplines.

    Anna thinks “Cassie” bit her tongue or cheek during the post-test steward’s check.

    “I support the blood rule. If she was bleeding during the test, of course I accept we have to be eliminated,” she said.

    “When does the test end? There needs to be flexibility and common sense. We have three videos and close-up photos of our test, coming out, and afterwards, which clearly show there was no blood, and several witnesses. Other sports use photo, video and witnesses to help make contentious decisions.

    “The steward did nothing at all wrong in handling Cassie — she is a nervous horse. But it was very obvious how it happened.

    “I don’t think the blood rule was invented for this purpose. Under this interpretation, a horse could jump to the side, knock itself coming out [of the arena] and be eliminated too.”

    Mark Todd is among many riders to weigh in with an opinion on social media supporting Anna.

    “There is no common sense here,” he wrote. “Clearly it was not done during the test… and the test is what you’re marked on. You should be reinstated.”

    Criticism for Marilyn

    Marilyn Little has been under the spotlight ever since swapping from showjumping to eventing in 2011.

    Chronicle of the Horse journalist Molly Sorge has described her as “a lightning rod for criticism”.

    No blood is visible in the Boekelo images but the allegations have caused a storm on social media, with some of Marilyn’s bitting choices being called into question.

    Scandalous wore a double twisted Barry gag and lever noseband with chain chinstraps. However, West Indie wore a standard long shank Pelham and flash noseband.

    A FEI spokesman said: “At Boekelo, horses were checked on arrival from cross-country by vets and a member of the ground jury. This always happens. The president of the ground jury has confirmed there were no issues.

    “At Fair Hill, the examination determined that [RF West Indie’s] small cut had been caused by the bit and noseband combination pinching the horse’s lip.

    The cut was treated and the bleeding resolved quickly.

    “Pain or injury in any form is cause for concern, and we have systems in place to make sure that trained officials are involved in cases such as Fair Hill. It is possible for a horse to bite its tongue without affecting its performance or being painful, just as with a human athlete.”

    Marilyn said that the wellbeing of her horses “has always been and continues to be my top priority”.

    “I strongly support the FEI and the carefully constructed protocol they have put in place for times such as this, to assure the wellbeing and safety of our equine partners,” she added.

    “My team and I will be doing everything possible to avoid anything similar to this occurrence taking place in the future, and appreciate everyone’s concern.”

    Ref: H&H 19/11/15