Equestrian Sports World Charts its Future Course
Protecting the well-being of horses and preventing the spread of equine diseases around the world, getting more countries into high-level equestrian sports, and verifying the preparations for these sports at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo — those were just three of the topics discussed in recent days by the world governing body for equestrian sports.
For context, in the world of high-level equestrian sports, there are three Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping; Dressage, and Eventing, the latter of which is similar to triathlon with its combination of Jumping, Dressage and Cross-Country. And for all three sports, the highest authority on the planet is the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI).
The Lausanne, Switzerland-based FEI, which sets the rules and plans the future evolution of these sporting disciplines as well as others such as long-distance Endurance riding, hosted its agenda-setting Sports Forum earlier in April before holding its FEI Bureau Meeting last week.
While only 200 elite riders (and their horses) compete in Show Jumping, Dressage and Eventing at the Olympic Games, countless more practice them across the world. And thus the decisions taken by the FEI through its consultations with national federations have an impact on equestrian athletes at all levels.
With regard to Eventing, for example, where the highest level international competitions are currently rated 4 stars, there was discussion of a proposal to increase access to the sport by revising “the star rating…. from one to five star, ranging from the new one star level [1.05 metre obstacles] to the Olympic and World Equestrian Games format. The new entry level would be designed to introduce developing countries to the sport and bring them under the FEI umbrella at an earlier stage.”
In a similar vein, the FEI Bureau meeting named host cities for 15 major equestrian events over the next four years, including the FEI Children’s International Classics Final in Beijing, scheduled to take place December 28-January 1, 2017/2018. “The allocation of the Final will do a tremendous amount to promote the sport in China,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos.
On the issue of equestrian well-being, the FEI meeting discussed its monitoring of the long-distance Endurance discipline, which has provoked passionate debates after several tragic incidents. As for Tokyo 2020, the next Summer Olympics, it was reported that for equestrian sports, “Venue construction will start this summer and is due to be finished by the end of 2019…. Test events for Tokyo 2020 will take place in 2019.” The question of planning for and managing extreme weather conditions at competitions was also raised.