Tougher qualification for eventers in international rule changes *H&H Plus*

  • Stricter minimum eligibility requirements will apply from next year, as one of the rule changes voted through at the 2020 FEI general assembly. H&H finds out more about this and other changes

    TOUGHER qualifications for eventers are among new rules due to come into force for FEI events in 2021

    The rules, as well as the forthcomign whisker-trimming ban, are among changes voted through at the FEI general assembly, on 23 November.

    “Less experienced” event riders face tougher minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) before stepping up a level from July 2021 – after the deadline for Olympic qualification and entries.

    The decision is based on recommendations from the FEI risk management steering group and EquiRatings’ data analysis.
    While the Eventing Riders Association (ERA) International has welcomed the principle, it is seeking an amendment on horse welfare and global sport grounds.

    This is because the MERs apply to combinations, which would mean adding extra miles in preparation for more long-format events to the legs of experienced horses who go to new riders. The crux is on riders grouped in the “C” category, as while this is the middle group, the level of experience of “C” riders varies hugely, from senior championship medal-winners to those with far less experience.

    “We acknowledge that there needs to be a safer sport, and MERs need to be re-examined for development of younger riders to make sure safety is paramount,” ERA president Bruce Haskell said. “But let’s get a better version.”

    The ERA is asking the FEI to adjust MERs, so combinations can have the option of more short-format competitions of the level at which they want to compete, instead of increasing the number of long-format MER requirements at the level below. For example, this would give a new combination aiming for a CCI4*-L, made up of an experienced horse and rider, the option of more CCI4*-S events, rather than increasing the number of CCI3*-L qualifying runs.

    Mr Haskell said the ERA is concerned about the impact the 2021 rule could have on the universality of the sport, with fewer long-format fixtures over a greater geographical distance in some countries, and of the added impact extra miles of preparation for long-format events would have on soundness and wellbeing.

    The ERA is also asking the FEI to consider individuals’ MERs, looking at how long these took to achieve against the number of events they have competed at, to help improve rider categorisation.

    In other eventing changes, frangible devices will be mandatory at certain types of cross-country fences across all levels for the first time next year.

    The rule was brought in at four- and five-star for 2020 but this goes a step further. Where an appropriate frangible device can be used, it must be fitted to all open oxers, open corners, verticals or near verticals with open rails, as well as the top rail on triple bars and gates.

    It is also now compulsory for all fences at every level to have a groundline, while serious cases of dangerous riding are now viewed as an abuse of horse.

    Other points include alternative qualification for the jumping World Cup Final, as so many legs have been lost, plus the dressage World Cup series to feature the short grand prix test.

    Protective headgear must be worn when riding anywhere on showgrounds, meaning the end 
of the road for top hats, and new anti-doping rules will also apply from 
1 January .

    Ongoing projects include work on establishing a dressage code of points judging system and an attempt to come up with a clear definition of “amateur” in the FEI disciplines. The longer-term aim of this last point is to present “a new concept” for competitions.

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