Category Archives: FEI

In Memoriam: FEI Pays Tribute to Longest Serving FEI President Prince Philip

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle in England. His death, at the age of 99, was announced by Buckingham Palace.

He was the longest serving FEI President (1964-1986) and was succeeded in this role by his daughter Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, for the following eight years.

Some of Prince Philip’s own greatest sporting achievements came in the sport of Driving which he introduced as a new discipline in the FEI and helped to develop during his FEI Presidency. He helped standardise international rules and became a hugely successful competitor himself, winning team gold at the 1980 World Driving Championship and bronze in 1978, 1982, and 1984. He also placed sixth individually in 1982.

Prince Philip strongly supported the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series, which is now one of the crown jewels in the Jumping calendar, and was hugely supportive of the launch of the FEI Jumping World Cup™ in the 1970s. He was also instrumental in the creation of the FEI World Equestrian Games™, having lobbied for such a competition for many years before it was finally staged for the first time in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990.

An all-round horseman, he played polo during his time in the Royal Navy in the 1940s and became one of Britain’s top-10 players. His passion for all things equestrian was shared by his wife and passed on to their children, particularly Prince Charles who was also a keen polo player, and Princess Anne, who claimed individual gold at the FEI European Eventing Championships in 1971, and individual and team silver four years later, before becoming the first British Royal to compete at an Olympic Games when she rode in Montreal 1976.

Prince Philip’s grandchildren have also inherited a love of horse sport. Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall took the Eventing world title in 2006 and was a member of the British silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Princes William and Harry are also regularly spotted on the polo field.

Born in Corfu, Greece and educated in France, Germany, and Great Britain, he was just 18 years old when he joined the Royal Navy in 1939. During World War ll, he served with the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets, and by the time he left the service in 1952 he had reached the rank of Commander. At the age of 26, he married the then Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth ll) in November 1947.

“The passing of Prince Philip is a huge loss for equestrian sport and his legacy, particularly at the FEI, will live on for many many decades to come,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “I first met him in London at the FEI General Assembly in 2005, and again at the FEI Eventing European Championships in Blair Castle in 2015. He was a man of incredible energy and a great sense of humour and the FEI was honoured to have him as our longest serving President.

“His dedication to equestrian sports cannot be underestimated and will never be forgotten, especially in the Driving community. He was born in the same year the FEI was founded and sadly he will not be with us to celebrate his own and the FEI’s centenary this year. We will celebrate his life and remember him as a great ambassador of our sport.”

The FEI extends its deepest sympathy to the British Royal Family and joins the equestrian community in mourning the loss of this remarkable man.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

EHV Relief Fund Brings Showjumping Community Together for a Common Cause

The entire showjumping community has been devastated by the current linked outbreaks in Spain of the neurological form of EHV-1 that has impacted horses in 10 countries in mainland Europe. Through the hard work and dedication of many in our community, progress is clearly being made towards bringing the immediate situation under control. However, many riders and owners are facing severe financial hardship due to the costs of emergency veterinary treatment for their horses during the crisis.

In order to provide support for those affected by these unforeseen and, in many cases, very substantial expenses, the EHV Relief Fund has been established. The brainchild of showjumping athletes Emile Hendrix, Peter Charles, and Frederick Goltz, the Fund has the support of the FEI, European Equestrian Federation, International Jumping Riders Club, Jumping Owners Club, and Equestrian Organisers. In addition, Riders Help Riders, the fundraising campaign set up by German event organiser and sports marketer Axel Milkau, has joined forces with the Fund. Collectively, this group have set themselves up as the Sponsors of the Fund.

The mandate of the Fund is to provide financial support to riders and owners for the legitimate veterinary expenses resulting directly from the EHV-1 outbreaks in Spain. All proceeds raised by the Fund will be applied to this mission. Any administrative or other costs of the Fund will be borne by the Sponsors.

Guidelines for the submission of funding requests will be published in due course, but the basic principle will be to:

  1. compile all applicable expenses;
  2. raise as much money as possible;
  3. allocate funds raised to cover the greatest percentage of the applicable expenses possible.

The Sponsors have created an oversight committee to manage distribution of the funds based on this mandate. The Sponsors are committed to full transparency and the accounts of the Fund will be published when it is wound up.

“Despite these desperately distressing times, it has been heartwarming to see in practice what we all know to be true: that in our sport, the welfare of the horse comes first, no matter the circumstance,” Frederick Goltz said. “As part of that special community ethos, we would hope that the broader showjumping community will help to bear some of the costs, particularly in an environment made all the more difficult by Covid-19.”

A total of €250,000 has already been pledged to the Fund, including monies committed by the Sponsors, other donors, and the very successful fundraising effort already undertaken by the Riders Help Riders team.

“Thank you to those who have already joined our effort and we very much hope that everyone in the showjumping community will consider helping as much as they are able,” Peter Charles said.

Questions about the Fund can be addressed to EHVRelief@FEI.org.

FEI Cancels European Mainland Events Due to EHV-1 (Neurological Form)

The FEI has cancelled international events in 10 countries on the European mainland with immediate effect and until 28 March 2021 due to the rapid evolution of a very aggressive strain of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), which originated in Valencia (ESP) and has already resulted in related outbreaks in at least three other countries in Europe.

This decision applies to all FEI disciplines, but in order to prevent huge numbers of horses simultaneously departing the Jumping Tours on the Iberian Peninsula, in Italy, and in Belgium that have been ongoing for a number of weeks, these specific Tours will be allowed to continue as individual “bubbles” on the condition that absolutely no new horses are allowed to enter the venues and no positive cases of EHV-1 are confirmed.

The Jumping Tour venues in Vejer de la Frontera (ESP), Vilamoura (POR), San Giovanni in Marignano (ITA), and Gorla Minore (ITA) will have stringent biosecurity protocols in place and additional FEI Veterinary Delegates onsite. Horses will only be permitted to leave these venues when they are in possession of an official health certificate from the local Veterinary Authorities. Any horses leaving these venues without this documentation will be blocked on the FEI Database. It is also illegal to transport a horse without an official health certificate.

Oliva Nova (ESP) had already advised the FEI that it has decided to cancel the rest of its scheduled competitions in the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour III. Opglabbeek (BEL) has also informed the FEI that it has cancelled its events in March.

A number of countries, including France, have already cancelled all their events to minimise transmission of the virus.

The decision, which covers events in France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Poland, Netherlands, Germany, and Slovakia, has been made in accordance with FEI General Regulations Article 112.3, which states: The Secretary General shall have the authority to remove any Competition and/or Event from the Calendar if justified circumstances relating to a Competition or the Event are established.

“This was not an easy decision to block events in mainland Europe, particularly after the major disruption to the FEI Calendar caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but this EHV-1 outbreak is probably the most serious we have had in Europe for many decades and our decision is based on clearly identified epidemiological risk factors.

“This strain of EHV-1 is particularly aggressive and has already caused equine fatalities and a very large number of severe clinical cases. We need to keep our horses safe.

“We are also aware that a large number of horses left the venue in Valencia without an official health certificate, meaning they had an unknown health status. Some horses were already sick, and the risk of transmission from these horses is a major concern.

“Cancelling these competitions in mainland Europe, with the exception of the ongoing Jumping Tours in the Iberian Peninsula and Italy, limits the number of horses travelling internationally and therefore reduces the likelihood of this very serious virus being transmitted on an increasingly wider scale. We also strongly recommend that the affected member Federations should also cancel their national events.

“We are very conscious of the fact that this is a very stressful and distressing time, and that this is potentially hugely disruptive for those athletes aiming for their Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) or confirmation results for Tokyo, but we are looking at ways to alleviate that in order to assist athlete/horse combinations in getting their MERs or confirmation results once the events in mainland Europe are allowed to resume.”

The FEI is conscious that some athletes have already arrived on competition venues or are en route, and is directly contacting all impacted athletes entered in Events between now and 28 March 2021.

Previous FEI updates since the FEI was first notified of the EHV-1 outbreak on 20 February are available here. Please scroll down to the Updates from the FEI Veterinary Department section.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4a

When You Get an Opportunity, Then Grab It with Both Hands: David O’Connor

David O’Connor (USA) with the brilliant Custom Made who claimed individual gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. (Photo credit: FEI)

It’s probably not that surprising that David O’Connor’s career thrived throughout the era of long-format Eventing, because if you’ve crossed the vast expanse of North America on horseback when you’re just 11 years old then going the distance is unlikely to be daunting at any stage of your life.

The 2000 Olympic Eventing champion retired from international competition in 2004, served as President of the United Stated Equestrian Federation (USEF) for the next eight years, and was inducted into the United States Eventing Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009. He now trains young horses, coaches riders, and designs courses, and he sees it all as a natural progression. “I’m in this game 45 years, and as time goes on you move on to the next level. For me that’s the training side of the sport, and I really enjoy it a lot,” says the man who became Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee three years ago.

He’s travelling to a show the day I call him up to ask him about his life and times. So how did he get started with horses? Did his family have a generational connection with them?

“No, my mum was brought up in suburban London (GBR) and she rode a bit, but it was only when she came to the US that she really got into it. My father wasn’t horsey at all; he worked in the Navy, but my brother Brian and I went to the local Pony Club when we were kids and that’s how it all began,” he explains. Mum, Sally O’Connor, would go on to become a Dressage rider, judge, and author while Brian’s voice is one of the most recognisable on the US equestrian commentary circuit. David, meanwhile, became a superstar Eventing athlete, greatly admired for the long and successful partnerships he established with a superb string of horses.

Ambitions

He says he didn’t have big ambitions as a child. “We weren’t wealthy so I never thought horses would be my life,” he explains. But when he was 17 years old, fate intervened. Spotted by legendary coach Jack Le Goff, he joined training sessions for development riders staged at the USEF Training Centre in Massachusetts (USA) and was invited to stay on.

“It was an amazing opportunity, a door that opened for me and I kinda ran through it as fast as I could! I was there for four-and-a-half years, and without that opportunity I’m really not sure where my life would have gone.”

His teenage heroes included Jimmy Wofford, Mike Plumb, “and Bruce (Davidson), who was dominating the sport across the world at the time.” David has maintained a lifetime connection with Jimmy, who he describes as a mentor and great friend. Like Jimmy, David’s career almost completely embraced the long-format era of Eventing which was very different to the scaled-back test horses and riders face today.

The old three-day formula consisted of Dressage on day 1 followed by Roads and Tracks, Steeplechase, more Roads and Tracks, and then Cross-Country on day 2, with showjumping on the third and final day.

“I was the last long-format winner at the Olympic Games (Sydney 2000) and World Championships (Jerez 2002), and I experienced the change to the modern-day sport,” he points out. “It’s certainly different doing a 13-minute course back then and an 11-minute course now. Today the intensity is higher, so horses can get out of breath quite quickly if you don’t manage your speed. Back then we managed galloping all the time, the horses were very fit, more thoroughbred types. There are horses that are not as thoroughbred that can do quite well in a 4-Star today, but they can’t manage a 5-Star. Now it’s all about turning and accuracy and having horses jump narrow fences… the rideability is more important than the athletic ability, whereas the athletic ability was more important back then. And there’s a huge difference between showjumping after cross-country and showjumping before,” he adds.

Brilliant horses

David had many brilliant horses, the best-remembered possibly his Olympic rides Giltedge and Custom Made. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he rode Giltedge to team silver and Custom Made to individual fifth place, and four years later Custom Made claimed individual gold in Sydney (AUS) while Giltedge was on the bronze-medal-winning US side.

So how would these two special Irish-bred horses cope with the challenges of the modern sport?

“Giltedge would be just as successful now as he was back then because he was extremely rideable and a very good showjumper, in fact he would have an even better career now because he would have been totally in the game! Custom Made would still be a big 5-Star horse; he would revel in it just like he did because his big wins were all over galloping courses like Badminton, Kentucky, the Sydney Olympics, but probably not so much at Olympic Games and World Championships because the courses are getting shorter and more twisting and turning and that wouldn’t play to his strengths.

“One of the great things about these two, and many of our other horses like Biko and Prince Panache, was that they stayed sound and played the game for so long. They were Irish-bred and we can’t afford to lose the genetic advantages that the Irish bloodlines bring, like longevity and athleticism, which maybe some of the other countries don’t have,” he says.

When it comes to longevity, Custom Made was a perfect example, only passing away last year at the ripe old age of 34.

Prepare

So how did he prepare horses like these two all-time greats? “With a lot of long, slow work three or four months away from the event to put a base on them, and faster work closer to the competition,” he explains. The long, slow work was exactly that. “Sometimes you’d spend two hours on them riding up and down hills, trotting, slow cantering, and walking. Some of the kids coming up now don’t want to put that work in,” he points out.

And did the horses have similar personalities? “No, Custom Made (a.k.a. Tailor) had tremendous strength and scope and the most unbelievable gallop. He never got tired in his life and was an incredible athlete, but he was quite sensitive about a lot of things and when he got nervous he got very strong.

“But I never had a horse try as hard as Giltedge; he always rose to the occasion. There was this super-power thing that happened at a competition; he would turn into a horse that fought for you more than any other horse I’ve had in my life. That’s why he became such a great team horse for the US. I only ever had one rail down in showjumping with him and he was always going to be in the top 10 – he was one of those troopers you could always rely on,” David says proudly.

He relishes the relationships he had with both horses. “At the beginning of their careers I felt they were part of my career but towards the end of their competitive cycle it was me who was part of theirs! I just had to do my job and let them get on with theirs. When they retired, we gave demonstrations and they became even more famous. They had a huge fan-club; people just loved them, and not many horses get that because there are not a lot of really famous horses around anymore – I think their longevity had a lot to do with that,” he comments.

Family ride

When I ask him about the family ride across the United States of America, I can tell that there’s a determined streak in the O’Connor gene pool. He recalls a family dinner during which his mother announced her plan. “She had this romantic image of the US as the Wild West… John Wayne and all that. We lived in Maryland on the East Coast and she came up with the idea that we should ride to California on the West Coast, and the more people said it couldn’t happen the more she was determined it would. It was an amazing decision for her to make!” David says with a laugh.

So on 13th May 1973 they set off on the 3,000 mile trip that took 14 weeks to complete. “I was 11, Brian was 13 and it was just the three of us. We ended up going to Oregon instead of California because otherwise we would have had to cross the desert, and we didn’t quite make it to the west coast because Brian and I had to go back to school at the end of August,” David says. Brian’s horse did the full distance while David and Sally both needed remounts en route, turning the original two out to rest until they were collected on the way home.

“My mother knew people across the first-half of the country, and we stayed with them about every 10 days and gave the horses a couple of days off each time. But we didn’t know anybody beyond the Mississippi River, so we just knocked on people’s doors when we got to the end of the day, explained what we were doing and everyone East of the river said, ‘You’re going WHERE?!’ and everybody West said, ‘You’re from WHERE?!’ We were doing 30-35 miles a day and local newspapers started following us.

“It was an amazing trip for an 11-year-old kid and taught me a lot about spending time with horses and appreciation of the land and how people make a living. And it gave me a sense of time, not control over time but how to enjoy being in the moment, and that has always stayed with me. It was 47 years ago, and I still think about it often,” David says, clearly enjoying the memories.

Bitless

I ask David about riding without a bit in the horse’s mouth. He’s quite an advocate for bitless riding, but he points out that it has its limitations when it comes to competition.

“We start all of our young horses in rope halters without a bit, and when we are going on a quiet hack most are in just a halter, and we practice this a lot. They learn to go, stop, turn, rein-back, and all that, so when we put a bit in their mouth there is no anxiety about it.

“But there’s a huge difference when you are out on a course for 8 to 10 minutes galloping at a speed of 570 metres a minute. You can’t compare riding in a ring or quietly hacking with the need for the horse to be able to answer cross-country questions – they are two totally different things. From a risk-management point of view there is no way I would ever go cross-country for miles without having a bit.”

Admired

I ask him about the people he most admired during his time at the top of the sport and the first person he mentions is, unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s Mark Todd – “a great horseman and a good friend.”

He describes the period when he and his wife and fellow-Olympian, Karen O’Connor, lived in England as “magical. In the 90s, we were part of a group of riders including Mary King (GBR) and Blythe Tait (NZL) who were all there at the same time competing against each other and who became the best of friends. It drove us all to be better, there were 15 players at the top of the world sport all living near each other and it was a very special time,” he recalls.

So why didn’t he and Karen stay in Great Britain? “We had the opportunity to ride for Mrs Mars who became a big supporter of ours. She bought a place in Virginia and asked us to come back and run a High Performance Programme out of there. But if that opportunity hadn’t come our way, we might have stayed – who knows?” he says.

Wisdom

Finally, I ask David to share some wisdom with the next generation of young Event athletes. “The main thing is to have a goal that’s way out in front of you and to work hard to get there. Surround yourself with the best people you can find and learn your craft to the nth degree.

“As Mark Twain wrote. ‘It’s very easy to learn the tricks of the trade and never learn the trade.’ You need to learn every aspect of the trade and that includes the people part, the horse part, the riding part, the competitive part, and the management part. You don’t become a winner because you’re talented and you deserve it; you have to be driven and you need to be hungry if you want to succeed.

“And one of the things I tell all my students is that when you get an opportunity [like David did when spotted by Jack Le Goff], then grab it with both hands!”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

FEI Awards 2020: Fans Elect Ultimate Best from a Decade of Excellence

Winners in the FEI Awards 2020 five categories were revealed, with multi-medalled young Dressage star Semmieke Rothenberger claiming the Longines FEI Rising Star Award for the second year in a row, and Eventing legend Ingrid Klimke also taking back-to-back wins as Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete.

This year the task of choosing the best of the best from the past decade’s previous awards winners was entirely in the hands of the public who cast their votes for the 55 nominees from 19 nations. Over 70,000 votes were cast on FEI.org and on the Chinese social media platform WeChat. Podiums in each of the five categories were occupied by a global spread from Germany, Great Britain, Australia, China, Ireland, Palestine, South Africa, The Netherlands, and Zambia.

With the FEI Awards Gala cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the winners were revealed to their online audience in a moving video narrated by British Paralympic champion Natasha Baker.

Semmieke Rothenberger, winner of the Longines FEI Rising Star Award, was overcome with emotion when her family held a surprise presentation of the award at their home in Germany.

“I’m very grateful that so many people voted for me and that there is such a big fan base of people that support me,” Semmieke Rothenberger said. “It is also quite surreal because there were so many good athletes in this category, including my brother Sönke, so I didn’t really expect that I would win it again.”

The 21-year-old, winner of 22 FEI European Championship medals through all the youth categories right up to Young Riders, has even bigger goals for the future.

“My parents have always taught me to dream big and reach for my goals and I would really like to canter on that centre line of the Olympic Games one day. I’ve been to the Olympic Games in Rio with my brother and I would love to see myself there with one of my horses and feel the atmosphere of representing my country at the Olympics!”

Along with other individual FEI Award winners, Semmieke Rothenberger received an elegant timepiece from FEI Top Partner Longines, the Swiss watch brand which attaches great importance to encouraging young people to practice sports.

“This Longines FEI Rising Star Award was created to recognise young athletes between the ages of 14 and 21 who demonstrate outstanding equestrian sporting talent,” Longines Vice President of Marketing Matthieu Baumgartner said. “We are delighted to once again celebrate Semmieke Rothenberger’s dedication to equestrian sport and we applaud her determination, passion and energy, which we are confident will take her to the very top in her sporting career.”

Double Olympic Eventing team gold medallist and five-time Olympian Ingrid Klimke (GER) was delighted to win a second Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete Award, together with a horse transport voucher from title sponsor and Official FEI Equine Logistics Partner, Peden Bloodstock.

“This is all still a little bit unreal but I’m so thrilled and happy,” she said. The 52-year-old, who was also nominated for the Award in 2015 and 2017, going on to win in 2019, is only the second person in history to win back-to-back European titles on the same horse, claiming individual gold with SAP Hale Bob OLD at the Longines FEI Eventing European Championships in 2017 and 2019. This year she took her fifth German National Championship, having won previously in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2009, sharing the spotlight with her daughter Greta Busacker, who was crowned German National Junior Champion on the same day.

Although Ingrid Klimke has set her sights on winning her first individual gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games next year, she is not shy of stating her longer-term ambitions. “I’m already thinking of Paris 2024 which is not so far away. I love to ride, I love to compete, and I love to keep going.”

There was further cause for celebration at the Klimke stables when Carmen Thiemann, head groom for more than two decades, won the Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award and a voucher from title sponsor and FEI Official Nutrition Partner, Cavalor.

“It’s the trust between us and the fun we have with the horses,” Carmen Thiemann said when asked about the longevity of her professional partnership with Ingrid Klimke. “I try to make the horses happy and healthy so that they are ready to work with Ingrid.”

Carmen Thiemann, who won the FEI Best Groom Award in 2013, has a special bond with the Klimke family having started her career as a groom for Ingrid’s father Dr Reiner Klimke, an Olympic Dressage legend for Germany.

“Everyone who knows Carmen knows how valuable she is as a person and especially in her job with the horses,” a delighted Ingrid Klimke said.

“We have been successful as a team for many years and I would never go to a show or a Championship without Carmen. She is a best friend to the horses, and I can totally focus on my job, either in Cross Country or in Dressage, knowing that Carmen brings them out as happy and healthy as possible.”

It is also interesting to note that the runners-up in these two respective categories – Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete and Cavalor FEI Best Groom – went to another dynamic duo: Great Britain’s superstar Charlotte Dujardin and Alan Davies, the experienced and highly respected “Super Groom” to Carl Hester’s horses, and also a key member of the FEI Grooms Working Group.

Ten years after winning their first award, the Ebony Horse Club (GBR) was once again the recipient of the FEI Solidarity Award.

“This award, coming at the end of a really challenging year, just validates everything that we’re working for,” General Manager of the Ebony Horse Club Naomi Howgate said. “To be recognised as the best of the decade is such a huge accolade and has made us extremely proud of the work that we do here.

“Ebony is a youth club with horses, rather than a riding centre, because our ethos is all about helping our young people be the best they can be both on and off the horses.”

The organisation, which is based in Brixton, South London, provides young people from low income families with the opportunity to ride horses and take part in a variety of sporting and educational activities.

The FEI has provided the 2020 FEI Solidarity Award winner with a financial donation to support the Ebony Horse Club projects. “We are a small club and we don’t have lots of resources,” Naomi Howgate said. “Donations are everything, as it is how we can provide the work we are doing. We support about 400 young people in a year and we can only do that with donations of money that allow us to run our services. So receiving this from the FEI is really fantastic!”

This year’s FEI Against All Odds Award goes to German Paralympian Dr Angelika Trabert. Born without legs and only three fingers on her right hand, Angelika is well known in the equestrian community for her indefatigable spirit and her motto, “It’s ability, not disability, that counts.”

She had just won individual gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 when she picked up her first FEI Against All Odds award, given to the person who has pursued their equestrian ambitions despite a physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances.

Dr Trabert, an anaesthetist by profession, was inspired to be an athlete and coach in the years after tragically losing her long-time partner in 2005. She has won six Paralympic medals and four at the FEI World Equestrian Games™. She is also the current Para Athlete representative on the FEI Athletes’ Committee and a member of the FEI Para Equestrian Committee.

“I feel this is an award and a reward for the work I’ve been doing and what I feel is important for our sport,” Angelika Trabert said. “You should always look on the positive side, especially in these times. It’s very hard for a lot of people and it counts more than ever to look upon the possibilities and abilities that we have. And there are many.”

“Our global and diverse community is built on our shared passion for horsemanship and the team spirit, which is so present in all five of our winners, is replicated around the world and at every level of the sport, both on and off the field,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“Passion and resilience define our community, and these values are echoed in the stories of each of our FEI Awards winners for 2020. Congratulations to all the nominees and especially to our winners, thank you for your commitment to the sport and the values which make the equestrian world so rewarding and inspiring.”

Full information on the FEI Awards 2020 and past winners are available here.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director, Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

FEI Awards 2020 Celebrate a Decade of Equestrian Excellence

If you had the chance to choose, who would be your favourites from the winners over the past decade of FEI Awards?

Well now you have that opportunity! In a year when our sport has been brought to a standstill by the pandemic, we are looking back through the years and giving YOU the chance to pick the best of the best from the five FEI Awards categories.

And the public vote for the special edition FEI Awards 2020 is now open!

This year the winners in each of the five categories will be chosen entirely by the public and votes can be cast on FEI.org from today until 22 November. Winners will be announced the second week of December.

There are 55 nominees representing 19 nations across the five Awards categories: Longines FEI Rising Star; Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete; Cavalor FEI Best Groom; FEI Against All Odds; and FEI Solidarity. The complete list of nominees can be found here.

“These Awards are a way to honour the heroes of our sport through their amazing stories of resilience, horsemanship, determination, and passion,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“Equestrian is not just a sport, but a way of life for many people, and this has been a desperately difficult year for the equestrian community, just as it has been for everyone, in every sector. Now, more than ever, we need to focus on the positives that our sport has to offer and celebrate the fantastic ambassadors that we have, both on the field of play and behind the scenes making a difference.”

Since their launch in 2009, the FEI Awards have become a key addition to the annual equestrian calendar and have grown in size and stature over the last decade. The FEI Best Athlete and FEI Rising Star Award categories have featured a high calibre of nominees from around the world with numerous Olympic, Paralympic, and FEI World Equestrian Games™ honours among them.

With nine awards in total, Germany has the greatest number of winners and also tops the leader board in the FEI Best Athlete category, with five wins in 11 years.

German athletes in different Olympic disciplines have won the FEI Best Athlete category three years in a row. 2019 winner Ingrid Klimke, one of the world’s most successful Eventing riders, was the third German female to win the FEI Best Athlete award, following in the footsteps of FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping champion Simone Blum in 2018 and six-time Dressage Olympic gold medallist Isabell Werth in 2017.

Germany has also been to the fore in the FEI Rising Star Award, with the Rothenberger family claiming it twice, with Sönke winning in 2016 and his sister Semmieke taking home the honours last year.

Alongside the recognition of individual sporting accomplishments, the FEI Best Groom award highlights the important work of grooms, often the unsung heroes of equestrian sport, and the British have dominated this category. There was a double celebration in 2016 when Olympic champion Nick Skelton and his long-time groom Mark Beever were crowned Best Athlete and Best Groom. Career groom Jackie Potts won in 2014 for her long collaboration with Eventing legend William Fox-Pitt while Alan Davies, head groom to Dressage superstars Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, won the title in 2017.

The FEI Solidarity Award has raised the profile of a number of equestrian development projects, individuals, and organisations that have benefitted the sport and communities in countries such as Haiti, South Africa, Singapore, Uruguay, Zambia, and Great Britain.

At the 2018 FEI Awards Gala in Manama (BRN), the FEI Solidarity Award was given to The Horsemanship Movement, founded by Chinese Eventing star Alex Hua Tian and his friend Philip Wong. The programme aims to improve the lives of migrant children through building a positive partnership with horses, as well as to reposition equestrian sports as a value-led activity, rich with character education for children.

Following his win in 2018, Alex Hua Tian became the only individual to have secured two accolades at the FEI Awards having also won FEI Rising Star at the inaugural FEI Awards Gala in 2009 in Copenhagen (DEN). The FEI Rising Star recognition came on the back of his Olympic debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the age of 18, where he became China’s first equestrian Olympian and the youngest ever Eventer in Olympic history.

Perhaps the most inspiring of all the categories is the FEI Against All Odds Award, which has brought equestrian stories of courage, hope, and faith to the forefront. The Award, given to a person who has pursued his or her equestrian ambitions despite a physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances, has been won by athletes from Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Haiti, Palestine, Uruguay, and the USA.

“This year, more than ever, I invite you all to show your support for the multiple nominees in the different categories,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “The equestrian community has been pushed to the limit this year but has come out stronger and this is our chance to unite and celebrate our community’s resilience in the face of adversity.”

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director, Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

Equine Governing Bodies Seek to Secure Industry Future in EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement

Proposed solutions that would secure the future of the European equine industry through safe and expedited horse movement between EU Member States and Britain following the UK’s departure from the EU have been sent to Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom (UKTF), and to Lord Frost, the British Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser and Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe.

The proposals, which cover equilibrium in equine health status between the EU and Britain, digital passports to facilitate seamless international transport of guaranteed high-health status horses, and zero tariffs for cross-border movement, are outlined in a comprehensive 14-page dossier produced by the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC) Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law, a collaboration of the key European Sport Horse and Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industries.

The six-member task force was formed earlier this year by the IHSC, constituted jointly by the global governing bodies for equestrian sport and racing, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) in 2013.

The IHSC, together with the International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation, European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Associations, and the European Equestrian Federation, has proposed simple and workable solutions that will ensure horse welfare and safeguard both European and British interests.

High health horses in Britain have the same health status as those in EU Member States and the task force is requesting that a trade agreement between the EU and Britain should reflect this fact.

Zero tariffs are already in place, and the task force is requesting that they be maintained, with the scheme being extended to geldings. Currently only stallions and mares are eligible for tariff-free cross-border transport.

Digital passports would provide EU Competent Authorities with full traceability and sanitary guarantees, offering immediate, 24/7 access to secure fail-safe identification and ownership information, as well as real-time monitoring of a horse’s movements.

The high health status of each horse can be instantly validated through access to up-to-date vaccination and medical records, allowing for a higher level of monitoring and prevention of potential disease outbreaks in line with the biosecurity requirements of the EU Animal Health Law, thus facilitating speedy transit for these horses. The digital equine passports can also be adopted for use between EU Member States and A-listed 3rd countries.

If approved, the e-Passport would have no financial implications for the EU as costs around final development, implementation and running of the system will be met by the equine industry.

Using a two-pronged approach, the task force is seeking to have its proposals captured in the text of both the Trade Agreement and in the EU Animal Health Law, which comes into force on 21 April 2021.

Should a trade agreement with Britain not be reached, the task force is asking the EU to declare an equilibrium of health status for A-listed 3rd countries. The proposals also include regional agreements on the bio-secure traceable movement of high health horses signed between neighbouring EU Member States. A Tripartite Agreement previously existed between France, Britain, and Ireland, and there is currently an agreement between France and the Benelux countries.

“The equine industry is of crucial importance to the economic, social, sporting, and cultural fabric of both the European Union and the United Kingdom, and as representatives from all sectors of that industry, we believe that there are simple solutions that can guarantee a secure future for the European equine industry,” IHSC President Ingmar De Vos said.

“It is one of the most important animal breeding and production sectors in Europe, larger and with greater economic impact and employment than a number of other European agricultural sectors, with a net worth of over €52 billion per annum, providing 210,000 direct and more than 500,000 indirect jobs.

“Our goal is to reach an agreement that will allow for a continuation of the historical expedited movement of horses for breeding, sale, and competition between EU Member States and Britain. While there are some sectors currently under discussion that seem to remain difficult in the negotiations, we believe that there are simple solutions within the equine industry that can be readily included in a Free Trade Agreement. Indeed, they are also workable even in a no deal scenario.

“We are asking the negotiators on both sides of the table to take our proposals on board and incorporate them into the texts of the Trade Agreement, if there is one, and the EU to include them in the incoming EU Animal Health Law, which comes into effect next April.

“Without agreement on this, we estimate that the industry in Europe could shrink by as much as a third, with a potential €17 billion reduction in economic contribution, and the potential loss of 250,000 jobs in a marketplace already threatened with critical unemployment levels and a significant reduction in foreign direct investment in the European Union as the economic focus shifts to North America and Asia. So failure is not an option!”

European Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law

Chaired by FEI Veterinary Director, Dr Göran Akerström, the European Task Force for Brexit and EU Animal Health Law also includes Simon Cooper, Vice Chairman International Stud Book Committee and Director of the General Stud Book (Weatherbys); Paul-Marie Gadot, Veterinary Advisor to France Galop and the IFHA; Des Leadon, European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders’ Associations Veterinary Committee Chairman; Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland Chief Executive, IFHA Vice Chairman and European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation Chairman; and Ronan Murphy, European Equestrian Federation EU Committee member.

International Horse Sports Confederation

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), world governing body for horse sport, and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), joined forces in 2013 to create the International Horse Sports Confederation (IHSC), the first formal vehicle for co-operation between the world’s leading governing bodies for equestrian sport. The key mission of the IHSC is to encourage cooperation and the exchange of information on all matters of mutual interest between the IFHA and the FEI, as well as representing the collective interests of the horse industry with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and other international bodies.

Media contact:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

FEI Driving World Championships Cancelled due to Covid-19 Pandemic

Lausanne (SUI), 2 October 2020 — The FEI Driving World Championships, due to be held behind closed doors in Valkenswaard (NED) from 7-11 October, have been cancelled due to increased case numbers of Covid-19 in the Netherlands. The decision to cancel the Championships, which were for four-in-hand horse teams, was made by the City of Valkenswaard.

“It is devastating that the FEI Driving World Championships at Valkenswaard have had to be cancelled at the last minute, as everyone involved has put in so much effort to try and make them happen,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but sadly the new Government restrictions in the Netherlands make it impossible for the Championships to go ahead next week.

“The start list for the Championships was looking very strong in such a challenging year for our sport, with 13 nations lined up to take part, including eight with full teams, but it is clear that health considerations have to take priority.

“We have done everything possible to hold these Championships, including looking at a possible alternative venue in Germany, and we are very grateful for the proposal we received, but regrettably it is simply not feasible given the short timeframe, ongoing concerns around Covid-19, and restrictions imposed by the authorities.”

The United States of America, which won gold on home ground at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon (USA), was not going to be defending its team title as they had just one driver heading for Valkenswaard, but Australia’s Boyd Exell, who took the individual title on the final day in North Carolina two years ago, was aiming to defend his crown.

Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, and Poland were all due to send teams to the Championships, while Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the USA were the five nations sending individuals.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021 Confirmed

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has confirmed the Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021. For Para Dressage, the competition dates have been moved forward by one day so as to mirror the 2020 daily schedule. The Para Dressage events which were due to start on Thursday 27 August 2020 and finish on Saturday 29 August 2020 will now run from Thursday 26 August 2021 to Monday 30 August 2021. There are also some minor modifications to the starting times.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic equestrian timetable for 2021 can be viewed here on the FEI’s Paralympic hub.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

The Best Is Yet to Come: Federico Fernandez

Federico Fernandez and Landpeter de Feroleto on their way to helping seal victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ at the Royal Dublin Society showgrounds in Dublin (IRL) in 2018. (FEI/Jon Stroud)

Mexican showjumper, Federico Fernandez, had just arrived in Madrid (ESP) by train when I spoke with him last week. He was en route to a business meeting and had intended travelling by air from Valencia (ESP), but the flight was cancelled at the last moment.

Considering his story, I asked him if he has any fear of flying. Federico was one of just three people who survived an horrific air-crash back in 1987, but he has more than come to terms with the tragedy that claimed the life of his friend and team-mate Ruben Rodrigues and at least 50 others. The horse transporter carrying the Mexican contingent to a Young Riders Championship in Chicago (USA) fell out of the sky and ploughed into rush-hour traffic on the eight-lane Mexico-Toluca highway before slamming into a restaurant on a drizzly Friday afternoon 33 years ago.

“To be honest, I never think that something bad can happen to me – the place I sleep the best is on a plane!” he says.

My first close encounter with this remarkable man, who has competed at three Olympic Games and six FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG), was in the aftermath of his team’s historic victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ in Dublin in 2018, when Mexico claimed the coveted Aga Khan Trophy for the very first time. I moderated the post-competition press conference that evening, and in all my years in the sport I have never experienced so much immense joy and such wild celebrations.

And Federico’s words that day embedded themselves into my memory. “After what happened to me, I feel an obligation to be happy, and today was one of the happiest days of my life!” he said.

Family passion

His uncle, Fernando Senderos, won individual gold and team silver at the Pan-American Games in Mexico City in 1975, and Federico inherited the family passion for horses. He was nine years old when he first climbed into the saddle, and when I ask him about his childhood heroes he tells me that the legacy of individual champion Humberto Mariles and his gold-medal-winning military team-mates was still very much in place when he was growing up. They swept all before them at the London Olympic Games in 1948.

“Captain Mariles rode a small, one-eyed horse (Arete) and was a fantastic rider. It was the Mexican golden era of showjumping when they were the team to beat for about 10 or 12 years, we’ve never had anything like that since,” he says.

However, US riders were the big stars on his own horizon when he was child. “We heard a lot about Nelson Pessoa and the d’Inzeo brothers, but they were faraway legends because we didn’t get to see them. The guys we had around the corner were Americans like Rodney Jenkins and Michael Matz, great horsemen. And at home, Gerardo Tazzer was my trainer and I was lucky enough to jump on many Nations Cup teams and at the Olympics in Athens (GRE, 2004) with him,” Federico explains.

Business

Riding hasn’t been the only thing in his life, however. Federico is one of those exceptional people who successfully manage to combine careers in both business and sport. He was something of an entrepreneur in his teens. “I sold hot-dogs outside my school, and then got more and more hot-dog cars as I went along!” he says.

“Mexico is an incredible country that gives you amazing opportunities,” he points out. He began his career by creating companies that functioned as service-providers to big corporations. “Then a few big international companies came to start businesses and I partnered with them and ended up selling the business to them. After doing that a few times I have a business with two arms – one providing small/medium businesses with a high level of services in terms of payroll, administration and human resources, and the other providing small businesses with loans to help them grow.

“In Mexico we really need to support young entrepreneurs. I’m proud of what we do, and it makes me really happy when we can help people source a loan and build a secure business,” he explains.

However, while researching his competition profile I was staggered by the number of horse shows Federico attends. How does he manage to combine his business commitments with his sporting endeavours?

“I’m an incredibly lucky man, I have an amazing team and with today’s technology you can stay on top of your business even if you are on the other side of the world. It works well because sometimes when you are doing horses it’s good to take the focus off them for a while, because we can forget that they are animals and need some time alone. When you dedicate too much time to thinking about new things to do with them then sometimes it goes backwards! And the same thing happens in business. Sometimes you need to step away so you can see the wood for the trees,” he points out.

Federico talks a lot about having balance in his life. “I try to understand the things I need to get that balance, like family, horses, entrepreneurship. I love to eat and I love to travel, so I put everything in the mix and every few years check that the mix I have is the right one. Because that’s very dynamic, it changes, so you have to adjust from time to time,” he says wisely.

He is married to Spanish-born Paola Amilibia, ‘the love of my life,’ who also competes for Team Mexico, and Federico has three children from a previous marriage – Juan Pablo, Eduardo, and Federica.

Mature young man

He was already a mature young man in his early 20s because he had been through a lot. He had only just returned to competition after back-packing across Europe for a year when the air-crash happened. The cargo plane was an all-but-obsolete 4-engine propeller-driven Boeing 377 that dated back to the 1940s, and it came down just seven minutes after take-off.

I ask him if it’s difficult to talk about the crash, and he insists it is not. “Incredible things came from it. At this point in my life it’s easy to say that, but if I could re-live my life I wouldn’t change it,” he insists.

His clothes were ablaze, and he suffered severe burns but survived along with two other people and just one of the horses on the flight. Hard as it is to believe, that surviving horse, Pepito, went on to compete with Mexico’s Everardo Hegewisch at the Seoul Olympic Games the following year.

Federico doesn’t dwell on the horror of it all. “Everything happens for a reason,” he says.

“It’s your will, your spirit, your determination, your power that turns a thing like this into something good instead of something that goes against you.

“Since that day I learned to not be worried about things that don’t matter, to really focus on the things you can change and not on the things you can’t, and to live every day like it’s your last. To create a life so that you go to bed hoping the night goes fast, because you really want the next day to start again. If you can make this your every day then you are a very happy person!”

He had surgery on his face at least 50 times. In the end he decided he’d just had enough of it. “The difficult part was I was just 19 years old, and when you get your face destroyed at that point in your life you have to really spend some time re-organising your feelings. It made me completely change my scale of importance, and I started looking more into the inside of things and less into the superficiality of life. And I found a lot of comfort and happiness in that.

“It made me grow up very fast and made me a person I like better today. All kids are superficial; I loved riding and everything to do with it which in many ways is very superficial. Success – or not – with the girls was important to me, and my work was all about making money. But those things changed in a positive way,” he insists.

Back in the ring

He spent six months in a hospital burns unit in Galveston, Texas, and the doctors told him it would be a long, slow path to recovery. But he was back in the ring and winning his next Grand Prix in Mexico City a year later, and in 1989 he qualified for the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Tampa, Florida (USA). That would be his first, and his last Final….

“In Mexico we don’t have an indoor circuit because of our fantastic weather, so I qualified at outdoor shows and when I went into the indoor I realised for the first time that my eyes had some issues after they were burned. When I was looking at the light that came from lamps I couldn’t see where I was, and I’ve never competed in an indoor again. Daylight is OK and in stadium lighting (under floodlights) I see even better, but the problem is lamps. My pupils are in only one position and can’t adjust, so when I go from bright to not-so-bright then it’s like looking into a cloud,” he explains.

I ask him what sporting successes he treasures most, and he tells me that every Grand Prix win is special. “I’m good at enjoying the moment when it happens. I try to enjoy it deeply because this sport is cruel in many ways, the next competition you have a fence down and the magic is gone very quickly! The good thing about Grand Prix classes is that they are on Sundays, so you’ve a whole week to feel proud knowing that maybe the next one won’t be so lucky for you!”

That Nations Cup win in Dublin two years ago and the team silver medal he earned alongside Gerardo Tazzer at the Pan-American Games in the Dominican Republic in 2004 are stand-out moments, along with finishing 13th at the WEG in Jerez (ESP) in 2002.

Favourites

When I ask about his favourite horses, he doesn’t hesitate. “My darling Bohemio! He’s Irish-bred and the most amazing horse. He has been Mexican National champion and took me to the Pan-Ams, the Olympic Games and the WEG. In the Masters at Spruce Meadows (CAN) the Cana Cup is the big class on Friday, and there were only two clears and we went into a jump-off against Jos Lansink and Cumano who had just won the World Championships (in 2006) and we beat them; it was amazing! In 2008 he was the top horse in the summer series (at Spruce Meadows) but he was injured after winning a class. That injury ended his career, but he finished the best possible way with a win! He’s 28 years old now and enjoying his retirement out in my fields.”

And then there is Gitano, “a great Grand Prix winner in Mexico, not scopey enough to do the same in big Grand Prix competitions in Europe but a fantastic character and a winner. In Mexico he gave me so many successes that I really love him, for that and for his character. These two horses were not just very special in the ring, they also had so much personality; they gave you their best every time you rode them. When you feel that your horse is completely with you and willing to do anything for you, that creates a kind of magic!”

I ask Federico if there are any famous horses he would have liked to sit on, but he replies that he prefers watching them with their own riders, “because I truly believe some couples are made in heaven!”  He lists Hugo Simon and ET, Jos Lansink and Cumano, and John Whitaker ‘in my opinion the best rider in the history of the world’ with Milton as some of his favourites, along with Eddie Macken and Boomerang and Rodrigo Pessoa with Baloubet.

And then he moves on to Rio 2016 individual Olympic champion Nick Skelton from Great Britain with Big Star. “Since London (Olympics 2012) Nick didn’t ride another horse; he was just determined to win that gold medal and he spent those four years helping the stallion to recover from a bad injury and getting him back into the sport only to show up at the Games and win that gold – just brilliant!” he says.

Tokyo

I ask him if Landpeter de Feroleto, the horse that carried him to that historic Nations Cup victory in Dublin two years ago, had been aimed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before the world was brought to a halt by the pandemic. The horse is 18 years old now, however, so hardly surprising that the answer was in the negative….

”I had planned with our Chef d’Equipe to give Peter his retirement tour this year, he’s been an amazing horse for many riders, he gave me the win at Dublin and also in the Nations Cup in Mexico and was very generous with me. Unfortunately, with the Covid situation there have been no Nations Cups so it would be very unfair to stretch his retirement one more year. He isn’t on my list of favourite horses because he came to me when he was 15. If I’d had him since he was eight who knows what we might have done together. But he is a special horse with a huge heart who would do anything for you,” he points out.

Feredico is placing his hopes for Tokyo elsewhere, and the hiatus caused by the virus may just work to his advantage. “Coming into this year I was not in the best situation because I had a horse that was coming along but not ready. However, one year more really benefits me in terms of my possibility; I have a horse that needed the extra time and now he will have it. His name is Grand Slam and I got him three years ago, but he had a bad injury and was out for one year. Now he is strong and healthy and jumping great, so I think he’ll be in super shape.”

Thoughts

Finally, I ask for his thoughts about the pandemic and its effect. “I don’t want to sound like a preacher,” he says with a laugh, “but we’ve had the opportunity to slow down in a world that normally goes so fast. At some stage we have all felt annoyed and anxious, and in many cases – including my own – it was financially disruptive and took away our peace of mind. But we’ve been given a chance to take a really good dive inside ourselves, to understand who we are and to regain the understanding of how incredibly beautiful life is, and liberty, and the right to walk in the streets and breathe the air and smell the flowers, all of that.

“And I honestly think that you always have to believe that the best is yet to come. We’ve been given a fresh start, so now is the time to re-prioritise things in your life, to put some dreams on the table, and to try to make them real. It’s in everyone’s hands to make that happen….”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46