Saturday 14 April - 09h59 | Lulu Kyriacou
Admara- A Storm In A Jump Cup?
A storm has blown up at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping in Paris after a horse was seen jumping so extravagantly many wondered if it's exhuberance was legitimate or the result of dubious or even illegal training techniques.
Admara, a 13 year old bay gelding ridden by Columbia's Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo also jumped clear the previous night. Yesterday (Friday 13th) the pair scored a time fault but were otherwise clean. The rider looked in danger of being jumped off on several occasions. The horse's hindquarters were spectacularly active.
At the press conference after the class, Susanna Cottica, an Italian journalist, was indignant at the jumps made by Admara during round. She argued that it was "no longer possible" to let such behavior go, referring to the misuse of certain types of hind boots. Tightened to excess, these devices cause a disproportionate influence on a a horse's action over a jump. Known as 'pinch boots', they are now against FEI rules and there have been some significant disqualifications of riders at the boot check which is mandatory after each horse has jumped in FEI classes.
Present at the press conference, John Roche, in charge of jumping at the FEI, answered her by saying, "You will have noticed that the decision was made by the FEI to totally ban later leggings by 2021. If we have not done so far, it is because we can not apply such a regulation in the Olympic qualifying period. Regarding what we saw tonight, we can consider that it was completely exaggerated, and we will take the necessary measures with the rider in question. "
This scenario brings up several points. First, that Lopez and his horse are checked by an FEI steward immediately after the class. The groom may not touch the equipmemt the horse is wearing until this is done. This has been a rule for several years. Boots are removed during this process and examined for anything that might 'encourage' the horse to jump higher. For example, elastic inserts on hind boots to make the pinch effect or sharp items that would hurt a horse if he hit a fence with that part of the leg. The steward is also supposed to check that the boots are not unduly tight. This would mean that any infringement with respect to Admara's apparel should have been picked up. The penalty for infringement is disqualification so on this occasion either none was found (most likely) or the steward did not check. As an experienced journalist, Cottica should be aware of this.
Second, although the FEI via John Roche mentioned that the future banning of hind boots is coming, the real question is why this has not already been done, particularly if it is a welfare issue. Citing 'a level playing field' for Olympic qualification is a moot point. The Olympics are two years away and there is plenty of time for anyone good enough to qualify. This would not be a major rule change of the sort that affects everyone, say for example, changing the height for qualifying classes, and it has not stopped the FEI making tack changes in other disciplines e.g. allowed bits in dressage or of course, making pinch boots illegal!! By John Roche argument there could never be any change in permitted tack and equipment except in an Olympic year pretty much as the qualification for one Games, begins shortly after the conclusion and debrief of the last.
Going back to Admara......
Going back to Admara, the horse was previously ridden by Emanuele Gaudiano but has been ridden by Lopez since 2016. The horse was a decent performer with his original rider, with places in several big Grand Prix classes but under the Columbian his efforts have reached a new level. In the last few months he won the World Cup qualifier at La Coruna and was second in the Leipzig edition as well as fifth in Bordeaux and third in Zurich. The horse has had a slight tack change with his new rider, wearing a snaffle type bridle, sometimes without martingale, whereas previously he wore a pelham type bit. It is also noticable if video and photographs are examed carefully, that prior to them being outlawed,, Admara had competed in the pinch type boots..... WITHOUT the extravagant hind quarter action!
It can also be seen on video (examples below with both his riders) that the horse has always been inclined to jump wide behind (hind feet far apart) particularly over an oxer.
However if the horse's results are checked, the pair obviously had some sort of issue at another Paris show, Saut Hermes. They finished well down the class in all instances and them competed, equally badly, at a CSI2*. Taking a 5* horse to a 2* show is often a way to give a horse confidence again, and is a method praticed in other disciplines, not only showjumping. Admara has only been out at two internationals in 2018 in the lead up to the World Cup Finals, where he performed well so it is possible that his jumping is down to exuberance and being a bit too well! Before Saut Hermes, the horse jumped several times each month so perhaps just needed some time off.
In last night's class the boots he is wearing are perfectly normal looking, one strap fetlock books, without elastic inserts. There used to a school of thought that warming up your horse in a weighted boot and then removing it for the actual class would improve jumping action (it is the same principle that was once applied to training harness horses to get a more 'showy' knee action) but has fallen out of favour in the modern era and there is no evidence that Lopez was doing this either.
Even though the horse will have been further examined fr sensitivity last night, if the FEI were investigating as John Roche indicated, there is a general veterinary inspection for the jumping horses today to ensure they are all fit for Sunday. If there is anything amiss, Admara wil not be on the start list, so we will all have to wait and see.