Carl Hester asks: ‘How is FEI voting democratic?’


  • Carl Hester argues in favour of introducing a weighted voting system for decision making in international horse sport

    A RECENT headline in a German publication read that the International Dressage Riders Club (IDRC) is going into the future at a strong gallop. This is not surprising as Isabell Werth, known for her bold extensions in the arena, is leading as president of the IDRC.

    All of us on the committee have international championships under our belts, except for Klaus Roeser, who still brings years of experience in the horseworld – not least as chef d’equipe for the German dressage team – to his position of secretary general. Klaus plays a vital role much like Eleonora Ottaviani at the International Jumping Riders Club.

    The riders clubs are in for the long haul to increase the voice of riders in the governance of the FEI. How can it be democratic for national federations with no history of participation in international horse sport, nor any indication that they might participate in the future, to be in a position to decide rules for international competitions?

    To put it in perspective, Isabell, who was at the FEI General Assembly along with Klaus, gives the example of the Ivory Coast equestrian federation, who voted for three riders on Olympic teams as it would be cheaper to support than four. In fact, it is thought that less than 10% of the 70 countries that voted for the three-rider format had ever had riders compete in the Olympics, Nations Cups or five-star shows.

    It should come as no surprise then that one of the main aims of the IDRC is to keep up the pressure for reform to a weighted voting system, which would give more dominant nations more say in decisions affecting top sport. The only stakeholders not consulted about the decision on three-person teams were the riders.

    The IDRC is working closely with the International Jumping Riders Club, historically the more vociferous and organised of the riders clubs. The IDRC has no current contact with a similar eventing organisation. Could this change, Eventing Riders Association?

    As Isabell highlights, especially at a time when social media is so influential, why risk a rerun of the disturbing images seen in the Tokyo jumping?

    “The Olympics should be about excellence and quality rather than flags and quantity,” she said.

    That is not to say that developing nations aren’t welcome, more that their focus should be on developing, gaining experience, and getting better. It’s complicated and political, but we must try.

    Meanwhile, if you’ve ridden at a CDI or CPEDI, please join us as a full voting member. There are also non-voting categories for young riders, owners, national riders, and supporters, so get involved by visiting idrc.me/join-the-idrc

    A key industry role

    WHILE I think countries that are more active in the sport should have a more strongly weighted vote when it comes to significant decisions, it is important also to find ways to encourage diversity and participation.

    I was intrigued by British Equestrian’s job advert for a strategic lead/relationship manager. This led to an interesting discussion with head of participation Mandana Mehranpour, who joined British Equestrian last spring from a similar role at the Lawn Tennis Association.

    It is part of an ambitious long-term strategy to diversify equestrian sport – not just riders but officials, volunteers, coaches, everyone. But the process is no quick fix.

    Strategy will be based on investigation, analysis, and insight. The relationship manager’s job will be to bring together the member bodies to create a shared vision for developing equestrian sport.

    British Equestrian is aligned to Sport England’s vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity, and we all know how much horses can bring to people’s lives.

    • Is a weighted voting system needed? Share your views at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 February

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