Horse Owners Question Olympic Reforms

France's Philippe Rozier and Rahotep de Toscane in Rio de Janeiro
Credit : Scoopdyga

Monday 19 December - 15h58 | Ian Clayton

Horse Owners Question Olympic Reforms

First the riders, now the owners. Horse owners have raised concerns about format changes to equestrian sports at the Olympics, adding their voices to those of top riders who have attacked the new rules, which would take effect at the 2020 Tokyo Games if approved by the International Olympic Committee.

 - Horse Owners Question Olympic Reforms

Credit : Shawn Carpenter

This weekend, Christian Baillet, president of the Jumping Owners Club, voiced fellow owners’ critiques of the format changes in an open letter sent to FEI President Ingmar De Vos and distributed to media.

The letter (below) cites a lack of adequate dialogue leading up to the reforms adopted by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) — reforms which aim to ensure the presence of equestrian sports at the Olympics and increase international access to the Olympic disciplines of show jumping, eventing and dressage. 

At its recent General Assembly in the Japanese capital, the FEI, in a bid to allow more nations to participate in equestrian sports given the quota on the total number of competitors allowed, approved a change which would now see three-rider teams competing with no drop score, and the ability to substitute a fourth rider at any moment. 

The current format has teams of four with the best three scores counting, and the worst score dropped from the final team total.

Show jumpers have long criticized the changes, questioning among other things the potential impact on the quality of competition as well as on horse welfare. They have equally complained about a lack of consultation throughout the process. 

The debate culminated in a heated face-to-face exchange in Geneva earlier this month. where Swiss champion Steve Guerdat and other top riders discussed the changes with FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez.

"The current format works": Eric Lamaze

The current format works: Eric Lamaze - Horse Owners Question Olympic Reforms

Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5
Credit : Facebook

At the meeting, the Secretary General said that given the limited number of spots available for equestrian competitors at the Games and the IOC’s desire for more diversity in sports, it was a simple question of mathematics to reduce the number of competitors on each team. 

But riders have also attacked their own national federations for a lack of consultation — including the question of rule changes at the World Equestrian Games. One example is in Canada, with competitors such as Eric Lamaze. 

“The current format works, and I want to make it clear that we believe the new format is not good for our sport on many different levels,” said Lamaze after Canada’s national equestrian federation voted for the FEI change.

See the full owners letter, dated December 16th, 2016, below. It expresses support for the riders' alternative format proposals. 

Jumping Owners Club Letter to FEI President

Jumping Owners Club Letter to FEI President - Horse Owners Question Olympic Reforms

Open Letter - Olympic Games and World Equestrian Games new formats

Dear Ingmar,
   Following our letter dated November 15th, 2016 where we voiced the Jumping Owners Club’s support to the new Olympic Games format proposal put forward by the International Jumping Riders Club, we were surprised and disappointed to see that neither the riders nor the owners could be heard.
   We expressed on various occasions, and notably during your presentation at the Jumping Owners Club General Assembly in Barcelona, that the new Olympic Games format proposed by the FEI, now approved by the National Federations, was not satisfactorily taking into consideration the welfare of our horses.
   Regarding the new World Equestrian Games format, the Jumping Owners Club approves the cancellation of the final class with a rotation of horses. Besides, we do not trust the cancelation of the initial Speed Class to be a bad decision either, as long as all Championships have similar formats in order to be more understandable for the general public.
   However, the fact that the decision about the new WEG format was made without prior consultation with the riders or the owners reinforces our concerns and tends to reflect a lack of consideration for the primary partakers of equestrian sports.
   We hope that in the future, all stakeholders of our noble sports can be heard, and that every decision will be made keeping in mind the Welfare of the Horse.

Best regards, 
Christian BAILLET  President 

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