I was about to blog today about the many issues I foresee arising as a result of the FEI’s new six month ban for riding in unsanctioned competitions (see my previous post if you missed it). But before I started typing I realized that if I let loose with my hail of criticism without first asking the FEI for some clarification, I am likely to get my knuckles rapped (ever so politely, mind you) by Mission Control’s media department. By the way, I take it as an immense compliment that someone at HQ reads my blogs! Thank you!
Rather than risk being thought of as nothing more than an ill informed ranter, I have sent a small group of questions regarding the unsanctioned rule to the FEI. I thought you might like to see what I asked while we wait for the answers, which I will of course share with you as soon as I receive them.
Here is the email I sent the FEI a few minutes ago:
Hi Grania. I know that if I blog about the new rule regarding unsanctioned competitions without first sending you a request to have some questions answered, I am almost certain to receive a message from the FEI. And since a few interesting questions did come up in an over-dinner conversation with some FEI riders regarding this new rule, I have several! I am not even sure to whom these questions should be directed – hence my first question. If you could forward them to the appropriate person(s) I would be grateful as always.
- How did this new rule come into being – when was it discussed and decided, and by whom? Was it in consultation with member federations prior to the GA? Am I correct in thinking there was a vote taken on it at the GA itself?
- I did see the rule change on a third reading of the GA main decisions, but see no reference to the ‘Rationale for new Articles’ that the IDRC shared with its members recently. How was this document disseminated to members and why were media not included (unless of course I missed a press release, but I did comb through the FEI’s own list of recent releases on the website)?
- If a rider enters an unsanctioned competition, but rides hors concours, does the ban rule still apply?
- the FEI’s statement regarding the reason for the new rule makes it clear that the primary purpose is horse welfare. Controlling entry to unsanctioned events does nothing to address potential abuse in the training at home. How does the FEI envision the rule about unsanctioned competitions addressing questionable practices outside of competition?
- The accusation could be made against the FEI that by interfering with what riders do outside of FEI sanctioned competitions is overextending its reach to an unreasonable level. Ultimately, is there really a fundamental difference between competing in a small jumping show down the street and setting up a course at home? Has the FEI discussed such policing practices that would see FEI riders monitored in their own facilities?
- Related to the above: this new rule is a much stronger one than one that would, say, compel national federations to bring their welfare-related rules into line with the FEI. For example, NSAIDs are permitted at USEF sanctioned competitions, but are banned in FEI competition. If the FEI is so concerned for welfare, why would it impose this new rule about unsanctioned events while allowing its own members to continue to permit practices the FEI has deemed are against the welfare of the horse?
- How will the FEI enforce this new rule? There are literally thousands of small, informal competitions around the world that are unsanctioned by national federations. And to what degree will the FEI consider that a competition falls into the ‘ban’ category? To give an example: during an annual dressage championship (nationally sanctioned) here in Vancouver, there is an evening competition that is primarily for entertainment of the audience, but there are prizes given out. The competition is a jumping five bar class. Would a participant in that event then be banned by the FEI? We also have what are known as percentage days, where riders enter one or two dressage tests in front of a judge and receive a score sheet, but there is no competition and ribbons for rankings are not given out. Would that count as an event that would cause a rider to be banned?
- An unintended consequence to this new rule may be to harm small businesses in the equestrian industry, as well as grass roots sport. An example: a training barn with a nice full sized indoor arena holds schooling dressage shows through the winter. The shows bring business to the facility. Local dressage trainers often bring a group of students to compete at these schooling shows, and will sometimes bring a young horse of their own to give it a bit of exposure. These trainers are usually FEI level riders with horses competing in CDIs. If the trainers face a six month ban for bringing their young horse to the schooling show, they are less likely to bring their students, and more likely to just set up a ring at home and do practice tests (where there would be no control over training methods, by the way), and perhaps hire a judge to come and give informal feedback. The training facility that holds the shows suffers a drop in entries at its schooling shows. In addition, young riders lose the opportunity to ride alongside the FEI riders who are their role models, something which is an undeniably inspiring opportunity for an up-and-coming athlete in any sport. Has the FEI thought about this potential side effect of preventing FEI riders from competing at unsanctioned events?
- Even though the FEI states welfare as the primary purpose for this new rule, it is impossible for me not to think of the fact that there are unsanctioned competitions of considerable size and prize money that could be seen as competing with FEI events. Endurance racing comes to mind. Can the FEI say definitively that preventing competition and effectively creating a monopoly in order to protect its own interests is in no way the purpose of this new rule?