Asmyr Reveals Veiled and Unveiled Changes FEI Has in Store

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 10:28
2012 Global Dressage Forum

The 2012 edition of the Global Dressage Forum held at Bartels' Academy in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands, was one of smooth sailing, little debate and highly interesting demonstrations. The whole forum had a more positive atmosphere about it, the reflection of the brighter view on dressage most people have thanks to harmony being more celebrated at the London Olympics and the judging at top level being up to standard.

There was little grilling and controversy at this year's forum. David Stickland confirmed with score statistics that the judging in London had been exceptional. The half point system has become imprinted in the judges' mind, the seven judges work on a more precise level than five, and the Judging Supervisory Panel has lived up to the expectations.  With the judging system finding a better foothold and a higher level of quality judging at top level, the task at hand is to make that quality filter down to the lower levels. 

Each year FEI Dressage Director Trond Asmyr is the opening act at the Forum giving an update on the arduous work the FEI Dressage Committee carried out throughout the year and the rule changes and proposals it will be making at the upcoming FEI General Assembly in Instanbul in 8 days time.  The Norwegian Asmyr had the unpleasant task of being the messenger of much good news and some unexpected bad tidings as well.

Let's start with the good news relating to new rule changes as of 2013. Protective headgear will become mandatory as of 2013 and a rotational system for judges will be set up.  Flyhoods are meant against insects and not as earmuffs. For that reason the FEI will no longer allow flyhoods at indoor competitions. Riders  that have qualified for a Special or freestyle at a CDI competition have to start in that second class. It will now be mandatory to ride the Special or Freestyle at a show, otherwise you'll lose the points obtained in the Grand Prix at that show. Only with a proper vet certificate the rider can obtain the right not to compete in the second test without losing his points. Finally as of 2013 the FEI will return to the old Grand Prix Special and ditch the Olympic one, which was only created to please the needs of the tv-stations broadcasting at the Games.

When it comes to changes to judging, the FEI has decided that open scoring will no longer be visible to the judges. Many riders critiqued that the running score on the board, visible to the judges, might influence their marking. A judge can only judge at one show three years in a row (except for home judges of the host nation) and then they need to be replaced. Following an incident and rumours of cell phone use at the CDI Vidauban in March, a new rule proposal came about which says that judges can not use mobile telephones or any other electronic devices during a class.

Trond also said that the Judges List will be decreasing by 20% in 2013. "Judges have to judge a minimum level of classes at a minimum level of events and do a refresher course every three years," Asmyr explained. "A number of judges were unable to obtain the criteria so we'll lose about 20% of the FEI judges." Asmyr added that the FEI chooses quality over quantity and is not worried about the reduction in the amount of judges next year.

It was smart of Trond to start with the good news, to create a good impression of the positive job the Dressage Committee is doing, but then he had to breach a few difficult roads, starting with the latest version of the Blood Rule which will be brought to the fore at the 2012 FEI General Assembly. The new, proposed blood rule (which was shown at the IDRC General Assembly) reads as follows:

Bleeding: if the Judge at C suspects fresh blood anywhere on the horse during the test, he will stop the horse to chef for blood. If the horse is shows (sic) fresh blood, it will be eliminated. The elimination is final. If the Judge through examination clarifies that the horse has no fresh blood, the horse may resume and finish its test. If the horse is eliminated pursuant to the above, or if the horse is injured during the test and starts bleeding after finishing the test, it should be examined by an FEI veterinarian prior to the next Competition to determine if it is fit to continue in the Event the following day. The decision of the FEI veterinarian is not subject to appeal.

"It is not possible to make everyone happy on this rule," said Asmyr. "The different clubs are disagreeing and this is what the FEI proposes. The whole format of dressage doesn't allow for a restart."

During the panel discussion IDRC president Kyra Kyrklund and IDTC president David Hunt clashed and admitted that the clubs still are not on the same wavelength. "There are still some discrepancies between the two clubs," Hunt stated. "We like to see it (the same rule) spread through all the equestrian clubs. We are totally against bleeding, blood, but we are realistic. The horse kicks a board, there can be a fly on it. It has nothing to do with the welfare of the horse or with the rider." Kyrklund is proud that the discipline of dressage is getting the right message across for the sport as she immediately reposted firmly: "I think it's good we go in front and say no blood." The Global Dressage Forum had invited Roly Owers, president of the World Horse Welfare society which is an associate member of the FEI. Owers stated that "the sport is played out in front of a huge global audience. You have to take that to mind.  Horses with fresh blood on them are very rarely going to be good for the sport. Simple is generally the best. What is proposed is simple and for the good of the sport." While the current rule proposal has already passed the FEI's legal department, the vague word "fresh" could be causing problems in the future.

The panel also briefly touched upon the FEI's conduct at the CAS appeal on the Olympic qualification of the Brazilian rider to the detriment of
Dominican Republic's Yvonne losos de Muniz.  Losos de Muniz released a personal statement on what was, to her,  appaling, below the belt behaviour of FEI reps at the appeal in New York. Asmyr was quite brief on the matter and said "we are not happy about the situation. We are looking into the qualification procedures, we are looking at the clarity of the rule. We will discuss these issues at CAS and at the Bureau. IDRC secretary-general Wayne Channon replied, "people are looking for a fuller statement so athletes are not put in this position." Asmyr replied, "I don't expect us to make more statements on it," indicating that the FEI does not see this mea culpa nor the black eye it got handling the matter as CAS released their verdict and stated in clear words that the FEI Dressage Department was wrong.

While the FEI openly waves with mottos of transparancy and globality, it has prepared an unveiled and semi-secret change for voting at the 2012 FEI General Assembly in Turkey. The FEI Bureau wishes to abolish the Associate Membership following the major dispute and legal woes it had by refusing to allow the IDRC to nominate a rider representative on the FEI Dressage Committee. With most of the waves settled now, the FEI Bureau has now internally decided to remove the Associates.

Asmyr announced the news that "there is a proposal next week that we will no longer have associate members in the FEI. We are still very much depending on each other, don't expect a different way of co-operation from today. There is an open communication between us. For us it's important to find good representation from the stakeholders clubs, but the clubs are just a limited number of riders. We are looking at a way to get a more comprehensive background." IDRC president Kyrklund replied, "we preferred to have been told beforehand and not chop their legs off but discuss what is not working and how we are going to move forward." Roly Owers of the Animal Welfare Society hadn't even heard of the FEI's plan to ditch the Associate Membership and frowned. "We have an association with the FEI for 30 years. The FEI seeks our advice and we support the responsible use of horses in sport." IDTC president Hunt concluded that "we will write a letter and make a statement from the IDTC. Trond finished with the words: "I like that David takes an active stance. It's important. We can still find a good way forward even if we don't have any associates anymore."

By removing the Associate Membership every registered FEI member will be able to nominate and vote on a candidate on the FEI Dressage Committee in the future. "This is not good, it will create a popularity contest and will the right people get picked then," Kyrklund wondered. The FEI's strategy seems to be a matter of divide and conquer. Riders, trainers, judges, show organizers are all at stake losing their voice in the Dressage Committee. This new FEI proposal has not been properly discussed by the federations and stakeholders and the proposal will be pushed for voting by the Bureau at the FEI General Assembly. Hopefull the NF's will all vote against it!

Text and Photo © Astrid Appels

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