Eventing’s rule shakedown: what you need to know

Eventing is in for a major rule overhaul in 2019 and beyond, if the current proposals before the FEI are passed

New Zealand riders like Clarke Johnstone may have to travel much further to compete at the top level if Adelaide loses its elite status under the proposed rule changes (Image: Libby Law)

The Adelaide three-day event looks set to lose its status among the world’s elite-level competitions, if eventing rule changes proposed by sport’s international governing body, the FEI, are passed.

It’s due to the FEI’s new category system, which upgrades the current four-star events (Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky, Luhmuhlen, Pau and Adelaide) to five-star status for 2019. But, in order to keep the CCI5* designation after that, events must fulfil new requirements, including a minimum of 30 starters, and minimum prize money of €150,000.

Adelaide has not attracted 30 starters in the four-star for any of the past five years: 20 lined up last year, 10 in 2016 and just nine in 2015. Its prize pool for last year (across all classes) was $AUD150,000 (€95,000).

The new FEI requirements for five-star also call for mandatory CCTV for the public, riders and ground jury, and an 11-12 minute cross-country course with 40 to 45 jumping efforts. It also ‘strongly recommends’ that an all-weather surface is offered for dressage.

By 2020 all CCI5* competitions will be reviewed annually, with their status renewed or revoked accordingly for the following year.

Badminton easily fulfils the new requirements for five-star, though may have to consider adding an all-weather dressage surface to the historic park (Image: Libby Law)

In the new category system, the CIC designation will no longer be used. Instead, CCI-L will denote long-format (three-day events) and CCI-S short-format events.

The new 1.05m level will become the new one-star, and all other FEI levels will shift up in their star category.

50-penalty rule out

The current, controversial and often confusing 50-penalty rule, which gives a rider 50 penalties for missing a flag on cross-country and continuing, is to be revoked, and replaced with a rule giving 15 penalties if a horse “misses a flag but clearly negotiated the element or obstacle”.

A horse will get 20 penalties for a run-out if it avoids a fence in such a way that its body fails to pass between the flags (rather than head, neck or either shoulder, as in the current rule).

Corey Wood and Pick Up Line received 50 penalties at this fence at a Canterbury event in 2017 (Image: Jane Thompson)

Interestingly, only ‘official video recording’ will be permitted as evidence when reviewing penalties, which will be not be great news for New Zealand riders at events where official video recordings are not widespread.

No more hackamores

Additionally, both ‘unattached neck straps’ and hackamores are to be banned for cross-country. It’s not clear what a neck strap must be attached to in order for it to be legal.

Donna Edwards-Smith and DSE Mr Hokey Pokey: Donna is a fan of neckstraps, but unattached ones like this will no longer be permitted in corss-country

In dressage, only ear bonnets “that allow horses to use all their senses and move freely with the ears” will be permitted.

The major change in dressage is to remove the collective marks, and replace them with one overall mark for harmony, which will be scored on a double coefficient.

And in the show jumping phase, it’s proposed that every two seconds over the time allowed will result in just one time penalty.

Welfare first

Another section of the rulebook to have a major overhaul involves welfare issues: blood on the horse, the use of the whip, yellow warning cards and recorded warnings.

Oliver Townend’s performance on Ballaghmor Class at this year’s Badminton, in which he was reprimanded for excessive whip use, was one of the triggers for the FEI to overhaul its rules (image: Libby Law)

Key points:

  • All cases of minor blood on the horse caused by the rider, either in the mouth or on the flanks from spurs, will be given a recorded warning or stronger sanctions.
  • Should the same rider receive more than one recorded warning for a case of rider-induced blood on a horse within three years, the rider will automatically receive a yellow warning card.
  • Two recorded warnings for the same offense will result in a yellow warning card.
  • The whip can only be used two times per incident (down from three), and a rule has been added that the ground jury can deem multiple excessive uses of a whip between fences as abuse of the horse.
  • If a horse’s skin is broken or has visible marks, the use of the whip will always be considered excessive.
  • All cases of excessive use of the whip will automatically result in a yellow warning card or stronger sanction.

All proposed rule changes will be discussed and voted on at the FEI General Assembly in Bahrain from November 16-20, and approved rule changes will come into effect on January 1, 2019. The new category system was approved last year, and comes into effect from January 1.

For the full summary of proposed changes, check out the FEI website here

Enjoyed this article? NZ Horse & Pony is available where all great magazines are sold, or to subscribe, visit https://horseandponymag.com/product-category/subscriptions/