All scores to count: Olympic showjumping proposals debated *H&H VIP*

  • All scores will count in Olympic team showjumping competitions, if FEI proposals for the 2020 Games are given the go-ahead.

    The FEI Jumping Committee’s proposals are in connection with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Agenda 2020 requirements to make horse sport more inclusive, popular and easier to understand.

    One of the key changes is that although each team will consist of four riders, only three will contest each round — but all three scores will count. This makes space for 20 teams, rather than the current 15.

    If the team competition goes to a jump-off, three riders per nation will take part, but only the best score will count — meaning two combinations’ scores will be dropped.

    The suggestions also shorten the individual competition to a speed contest and a jump-off class.

    It keeps the team and individual competitions completely separate, with individual medals decided before the start of the team competition.

    At present, riders qualify for the individual through the initial team competition.

    Olympian Tim Stockdale (pictured, top) said that while the sport should always be looking to better itself, the equestrian world needs to be careful not to be “dictated to” in an attempt to make it more appealing.

    “This sport involves an animal and any rule changes have to have the animal’s welfare at the forefront,” he told H&H. “We have to fight our corner very strongly.”

    He added while it is a good idea to try and make the sport more exciting, care needs to be taken.

    His main concern was that dropping two scores could lead to reckless riding in an attempt to make the fastest time.

    He also voiced concerns about the pressure having the individual competition first would put on the better riders, and believes riders should jump in a drawn order, rather than according to ranking.

    However, he added he would prefer the “jeopardy” factor of having three riders and no drop-score in the second round, but thinks all four riders should compete in the first round.

    British Showjumping’s (BS) Iain Graham said tradition is important, but people’s viewing habits have changed and they want to be able to follow the competition.

    “More than 50% of the sports in the Olympics use an abbreviated version of their sport,” Mr Graham told H&H.

    He added the “no drop-score” is one of the “more contentious” issues showjumping is facing.

    BS has held consultations with riders at Olympia, its international committee and other international bodies about the changes. It also has further discussions planned.

    “If it is a shorter or slightly changed format that enables the sport to remain in the Olympics, then that is something we are willing to do,” Mr Graham added.

    “We are competing against sports that are wanting to be in the Olympics, like surfing and skateboarding, that can look glamorous, fun and fast.”

    But Mr Graham added there are many formats in which showjumping competitions can run and he “would not be surprised” if there is further change.

    “I do wonder if we have been progressive enough,” he said.

    He gave the example of how sports like ski and boardercross — where four racers go head-to-head — though not traditional are now in the Winter Olympics.

    The suggestions for dressage, eventing and showjumping are set to be debated at the FEI Sports Forum next month (4-5 April).

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    A FEI spokesman said the proposals follow “multiple discussions” over several years and began before the Olympic Agenda 2020 was unveiled.

    “The proposals represent a real evolution, coming on the back of listening and considering all feedback very carefully as part of an inclusive process,” he added.

    For more on the dressage proposals, see H&H 31 March.