‘Fifth man’ could compete and rider licences are on the cards *H&H Plus*

  • Proposals for changes to the showjumping rules, discussed at the 2021 FEI Sport Forum include the possibility of rider licensing for top-level events, and running both Nations Cup rounds against the clock. H&H listens in and finds out more

    THE “fifth man” could be allowed to compete for individual medals at senior Continental showjumping championships in the future as part of a major rules shake-up.

    The current situation means that a squad of five horses and riders travel to senior championships, excluding the Olympics, and the team of four is announced at the venue. The fifth person, who is in effect the travelling reserve or “fifth man”, is not allowed to compete in the championship classes, but is there to support the team.

    The proposal to allow the fifth rider to compete in the championship classes, after the team is declared, was announced at the FEI Sports Forum (1–2 June) and a final decision is expected at the general assembly in November.

    “We think that to take a fifth athlete to a championship, to take a horse and a rider for one week to have them just float around the place … we believe this is no good,” said FEI jumping director Marco Fusté. “I think for team morale and availability of the fifth athlete [this change] is important.”

    Ideas surrounding a “licence” for a rider to compete at top-level events, dubbed a “certificate of capability” were also raised.

    “At the moment we don’t have something like this, but the question has been raised if a certificate of capability should be introduced as a requirement for athletes to compete in the main competitions of a CSI5*, or in other words, should we introduce a kind of licence for athletes to compete at top-level events,” said FEI  jumping committee chairman Stephan Ellenbruch.

    “In principle we are in favour of doing so, so we should introduce a certificate of capability for CSI5* events. We have to see where we put that in the rules.”

    The concept was again raised in later discussions, with the suggestion that combinations must have a certain number of acceptable results at CSI3*/CSI4* grands prix to be eligible to jump in the main competitions at a CSI5*.

    “The philosophy of the rule should be that we avoid at all levels bad pictures on television and scary moments in competition,” explained Mr Fusté.

    Another major proposal was to run both rounds of Nations Cup competitions against the clock, rather than time allowed.

    US showjumping chef d’equipe Robert Ridland responded to this suggestion by saying: “I’m not really against that, but I’m not really in favour of it. That’s a little bit of a complication. Even though we are emphasising speed in our sport, justifiably so, the first and second rounds of a Nations Cup are not intended to be speed events. Riders are going there jumping very tough courses with the intention of going clean and there’s an art form to being just under the time allowed.”

    Mr Ridland voiced strong opposition over a proposal to stop championship medallists from automatically qualifying for grands prix.

    “I think, as a chef, this will seriously weaken our ability to field the best teams in this sport,” he said. “We have to remember where our priorities are and they are in the Nations Cups and they are in the championships.

    “For us to field a team for a championship, particularly the Continental championships, those are huge sacrifices for the riders, who have to take their horses out of competition for more than a month when you are talking about logistics.

    “Let’s not water down the sport by de-emphasising the championships and taking away the incentive for riders to go there and teams to field the best teams in championships by taking away that incentive of being able to pre-qualify for grands prixs.”

    Other proposals

    • Consistent time-penalties for all rounds and classes, of one penalty for each second over the time allowed, rather than different rules for different phases/classes.
    • Improve fairness of invitation rules, to give more sway to compulsory invitations over who the organiser chooses to invite when filling withdrawal spots.
    • Split competitions if more than 100 starters: organisers to provide 200% of the prize money and split evenly across both sections.
    • Grand prix starting order to be weighted more in favour of merit of performance at that show, rather than world ranking.
    • “Even up the field” at youth Europeans by taking the best three scores from four riders, instead of five, which currently gives stronger nations an advantage.
    • Olympic and World Championship medal winners to be invited to CSIs on a staggered timeline, according to the medal they won.

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