The disqualification of Hubertus Schmidt at the CDI-W Neumunster has caused much upheaval in the equestrian world. Schmidt fans are upset because of a new FEI rule, which they consider vague and imprecise
, prevented their favorite rider from winning valuable World Cup points for his World Cup Finals' berth in Las Vegas. And more questions buzz in the hornets' nest; why did no one tell him to drop his whip? Where was the paddock supervisor? Why didn't the groom say anything?
As of January 1, 2005, the new FEI whip rule says:
At all international events, it is, under penalty of elimination, forbidden to carry a whip of any kind while competing. However, the use of one whip, with a total maximum length of 110 cm, in the practice area is allowed. The whip must be dropped before entering the space around the competition arena. Only riders, or grooms when riding, walking or lungeing a horse, are allowed to carry a whip on the show grounds.
In an attempt to set the record straight, Eurodressage received an enlightening phone call today from Mrs Mariette Withages, FEI Dressage Committee chairwoman. After we heard her version of the Neumunster whip story, we also called Hubertus Schmidt to verify the facts.
According to Withages, Schmidt left the warm up on Aramis carrying his whip, even though the ring master told him to drop it. "He wanted to carry his whip till the very last moment and then he forgot to drop it," Withages said.
Because the area round the show ring is non existent in Neumunster, the riders were allowed to ride one round in the ring, but then had to go out again before starting their program. "We all saw he was carrying a whip," Withages said, "Riexinger called Burchler-Keller and Moritz signaled to me, even the stewards signaled. Schmidt's whip was also too long and he stayed in the ring too long before starting his program."
Burchler-Keller rang the bell and Schmidt started his test. She did not make clear to him that he was already disqualified. "We all judged the class because Burchler did not ring the bell for elimination," Withages stated.
Schmidt's score (a winning mark of approximately 72%) was announced after the test. "We did not approve of this score because we knew he was eliminated," Withages continued. "There was a communication break down with the computers. The organization in the scoring office and the announcer did not get the message that Schmidt was eliminated."
Because Schmidt was the second to last rider to go in the Grand Prix and he had ridden the top score, the ground crew and show secretary threw the winners' rug on Aramis, not knowing or realizing that the judges had eliminated him. "His disqualification was announced when he was about to enter the ring for the award ceremony," Withages clarified.
Hubertus Schmidt, however, does not completely agree with Withages' viewpoint on the situation and shared his version with Eurodressage.
First of all, Schmidt said that none of stewards told him that whips were no longer allowed in the ring. He added that one steward approached him only to tell that his whip was too long (120 cm instead of 110 cm). "I called my groom to go fetch a shorter whip, but the steward said that I could use mine for five more minutes," said Schmidt.
The 13-year old Oldenburger gelding Aramis is a very hot horse and normally he doesn't even need a whip to ride him. "It's just a habit that I carry one. Aramis is perfect at shows and in the warm up. He's not difficult at all. He's totally fine and there is no reason for me to carry one," Schmidt said.
So when Hubertus headed towards the show ring, carrying his whip, he was totally unaware of breaking any of the FEI rules. "I went round once, went out, threw the whip away, and entered again from the outside. All the judges saw me carry the whip and they did not ring the bell for disqualification. At the end of the test, they were all smiling because it was a nice ride. I looked at their faces. Volker Moritz even told me I rode a good test." According to Schmidt, Burchler-Keller had given him no sign that he was disqualified. "The judges don't know their own rules," he replied.
Withages pin-pointed the passivity of judge at C, Beatriz Burchler-Keller, and malcommunication between the judges and show secretary as the major causes of the Schmidt Whip Drama. "The judges should have rang the bell right away to clearly signal his elimination," Withages said.
It is Schmidt's opinion that the tender spot is the lack of communication between the riders and the FEI. "I really didn't know about the rule. I believe I read it in Horse International in November, but didn't pay much attention to it," Schmidt explained. "There is this new whip rule, but nobody talked about it so I wasn't careful. If I steward were to tell me I couldn't take a whip inside the ring, I wouldn't have done it. I'm not stupid."
On the one hand, it is the rider's responsibility to know the rules of competition, on the other hand, the FEI could have stressed this important rule change more by posting official press releases (clearly visible on the FEI website, not tucked away) and by sending them to the media.
Schmidt acknowledged that he broke the FEI rule. "It is my mistake, I carried the whip, but I didn't know about the new rule; and I'm not the only one. Klimke and Rehbein told me afterwards that they didn't know about it either," Schmidt said. "Why didn't one of the stewards tell me that I wasn't allowed to carry a whip? It is my fault, but the stewards could have helped me."
Furthermore, Schmidt expressed his disapproval for the new rule of the 110 cm whip. "It's a silly rule. A long whip is much easier to use and if I want to hit hard I can do it with a short whip as well as with a long one," he joked.
The rules changes and corrections, which include the new FEI whip rule, has been effective since January 1, 2005, and has been published on the FEI website. The latest update to these rules have been carried out on February 17, 2005.
Questions concerning FEI rules and regulations can be mailed directly to Eva Salomon at the FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Mrs Salomon can be reached at: email@example.com
Text and Photo copyrighted: Astrid Appels for Eurodressage
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2004-2005 World Cup Finals