Tag Archives: FEI

FEI General Assembly 2020 Moves Online

The FEI General Assembly 2020, which was due to be held in Johannesburg (RSA) in November, has been cancelled and will now be held online due to Covid-19 social distancing requirements and travel restrictions.

The decision was approved by the FEI Board during its three-day videoconference meeting this week, and the Board also gave its unanimous support to allocate next year’s FEI General Assembly to Johannesburg.

“The safety of our community is our highest priority and although it is regrettable, cancelling our in-person General Assembly this year and going online was the responsible thing to do,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“We are very grateful to the National Federation of South Africa for the support and flexibility they have shown, as well as their willingness to host our General Assembly next year when the situation will hopefully have improved for everyone.

“We are lucky to live in a time where it is possible to meet virtually, even though face-to-face meetings and discussions keep us together as a community.”

With the pandemic legally defined as “force majeure” in Switzerland, the country’s Federal government has adopted ad hoc temporary measures to facilitate the organisation of General Assembly meetings for Swiss based associations like the FEI.

Under these special regulations, the FEI is permitted to hold its General Assembly electronically. Other large international gatherings, including next month’s IOC Session, will also be held online.

The FEI is currently considering a number of electronic solutions for running the General Assembly online and will communicate these to National Federations in due course

“While we are of course disappointed not to be able to hold the FEI General Assembly in South Africa this year, we appreciate the confidence that the FEI has shown to us by giving us the opportunity to host the General Assembly next year,” President of the National Federation of South Africa Adv Willem Edeling SC said.

“It will be the first time that an international equestrian gathering of this scale will be held in South Africa and we look forward to welcoming delegates from around the world to our world class meeting facilities. 2021 is the centenary of the FEI, and we feel privileged that our event will form part of the 100-year celebrations.”

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 Joins Forces with Black Horse One and SAP to Create Online Dressage Training Platform

The FEI has launched the FEI eDressage™ Online platform in partnership with Black Horse One (BHO) and SAP, to provide a unique environment for FEI registered Dressage and Para Dressage athletes to boost their training and development.

FEI registered athletes can upload videos to the FEI eDressage™ Online platform every week for their FEI Dressage tests to be judged anonymously by a pool of FEI 5* level Dressage and Para Dressage judges. In the first phase, a number of videos will be randomly selected and athletes will then be provided with feedback on their performance and given pointers for improvement.

“This new platform is yet another example of the ways in which technology can be introduced into equestrian sport to transform training techniques,” FEI Commercial Director Ralph Straus said.

“Athletes now have the opportunity to have their tests remotely evaluated by a group of top level judges and to receive key insights that could benefit their performances.

“While the current pandemic highlights the value of a platform like this to athlete training when travel and competition restrictions exist, it can also be particularly useful to athletes residing in remote regions of the world, who would otherwise be unable to avail of the international expertise provided through this platform.”

Although the platform has been designed primarily with the horse and athlete in mind, it has the potential to become a valuable source of content for training FEI Officials in close collaboration with the FEI’s online e-learning platform, FEI Campus. The user-generated content would allow the FEI to improve the video material used in training programmes for FEI Dressage and Para Dressage judges.

The FEI eDressage™ Online platform is not the first time software development company Black Horse One, and the market leader in enterprise application software SAP, have come together with the FEI to create unique technological solutions for the sport.

While previous initiatives have been created to enrich the competition experience for live audiences and judges, the FEI eDressage™ Online platform has been specifically created for a non-competitive environment. Tests will not be judged and no rankings will be provided, but performances will be critiqued by an elite group of judges purely for training purposes.

“It is an absolute pleasure for us to launch the FEI eDressage Online platform together with the FEI and SAP, our close partner for many years now,” CEO of Black Horse One Daniel Göhlen said.

“We at Black Horse One provide innovative, high-performance software solutions specialised in equestrian sports and see this new platform as a fantastic technological development to support athletes all over the world, especially during these current uncertain times. The FEI eDressage Online platform is built on the basis of our paperless judging solution eDressage and benefits from several of our other innovations which have been supported by SAP and established by the FEI.”

SAP Director of Strategic Partnerships in Equestrian, Henrike Paetz, also welcomed the initiative. “The launch of the new FEI eDressage Online platform is another milestone in our partnership with the FEI and long-standing cooperation with Black Horse One,” she said.

“Providing a virtual training and feedback environment for international athletes is an innovative way to stay connected and up-to-speed during these challenging times and beyond and reflects our ambition as the Official Analytics Sponsor of the FEI Dressage World Cup series. We are proud to once more help reinvent the athlete experience based on our SAP Cloud Platform technology.”

Previously, the two companies combined their expert knowledge in technology and fan engagement to create the award-winning Spectator Judging® app in 2017.

The app enables audiences at FEI Dressage World Cup™ events to get into the judge’s seat, with audience scores and rankings created in real-time during the competitions and then placed side-by-side with official results on the arena scoreboards. It’s a dynamic way for live audiences to participate more actively in the sporting action provided by the world’s top Dressage athletes and their horses.

A further collaboration between SAP and Black Horse One in 2018 led to the development of the Dressage Paperless Judging software, a system allowing FEI Dressage and Para Dressage competitions to be scored without a scribe having to write down each mark on an FEI Dressage score sheet. The Paperless Judging system was designed to deliver finished and signed scores and comments to athletes immediately after each test, and also maintain fan engagement by reducing the time between the end of a competition and the awards ceremony.

“The beauty of the FEI eDressage Online platform is that it has the potential to grow and develop over time and become something larger than we initially imagined,” FEI Director Information & Sports Technology Gaspard Dufour explained. “For developments like these to really impact a sport, it is necessary that our technological partners understand equestrian and the needs of our stakeholders. Long-term collaborations like ours show that having the time to grow and develop together can impact the industry in a meaningful way.”

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

Longines FEI Endurance World Championships 2020 Postponed to 2021

The Longines FEI Endurance World Championships 2020 have been postponed until May 2021 due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on equestrian sport. The decision to postpone comes following agreement between the FEI, the Italian National Federation, and the Organisers in Pisa.

The Championships were due to be held at San Rossore, Pisa in September this year, but the pandemic and the restrictions on both travel and training of horses has meant that is was simply not possible to maintain the original date.

The FEI Executive Board and the Endurance Temporary Committee were in favour of postponement and, following consultation with the Endurance Calendar Task Force and meetings with the Italian National Federation and the Pisa Organisers, the move to May 2021 was agreed. Final approval of the postponement was given by the FEI Board at an extraordinary Board meeting held by videoconference on 19 June.

Qualification for the Championships will be under Article 836 of the FEI Endurance Rules (11th Edition), which come into effect on 1 July 2020.

The FEI Board also agreed to prolong the qualification period for these Championships in order to allow more time for horses and athletes to qualify following the disruption to this year’s FEI Calendar caused by the pandemic. Details will be defined by the Endurance Temporary Committee and FEI Headquarters and communicated later.

Two Continental Championships are already scheduled to run next year – the FEI Endurance Pan American Championships for Seniors & Young Riders in Campinas (BRA) from 28-29 July and the FEI Endurance European Championships in Ermelo (NED) from 6-11 September. The FEI last week proactively reached out to all 51 National Federations that compete in Endurance in order to understand their views on the proposed postponement of the World Championships and its potential impact on next year’s Calendar.

National Federations were asked whether they were in favour of postponing the Longines FEI Endurance World Championships to May 2021 and if they would also participate in their region’s Continental Championships if the Worlds were moved to next year.

A total of 34 National Federations responded to the questionnaire, of which 33 were positive, both to the postponement and their participation, where relevant, in one of the Continental Championships next year.

“Our Endurance community made it very clear to the FEI that they want a World Championships, particularly after losing the last edition at Tryon in 2018, but horse welfare and a level playing field could not have been guaranteed if the Championships had run in September, so it was the best solution to move the Championships to May of next year,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said.

“Having consulted with the National Federations that compete in Endurance, we now feel that we have reached a compromise that works for everyone, but especially for our horses, as there will now be time for them to do the necessary preparation work and achieve their qualification for this major event.”

The Secretary General is in charge of the FEI Calendar and, throughout the Covid-19 crisis, has chaired the eight discipline-specific Calendar Task Forces that have been working to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the sport and the fixture list. More than 800 events have already been cancelled and numerous events have been rescheduled.

The FEI Endurance World Championships for Young Horses and the FEI Endurance European Championships for Young Riders & Juniors, which are due to be held in Vic (ESP) from 25-27 September 2020, will be discussed by the FEI Board during this week’s three-day meeting via videoconference (23-25 June).

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

From Wildfire to the World Stage: David Broome

David Broome and Mister Softee on their way to individual bronze at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. (FEI archive)

When I called David Broome last Tuesday, he had been haymaking at Mount Ballan Manor near Chepstow in South Wales which, apart from being the family farm, is also home to the hugely popular Wales and West showgrounds.

The legendary British showjumping rider is deeply rooted in his home place. His parents, Fred and Millie, moved to Mount Ballan in 1947, and all four of their children – David, Liz, Mary, and Frederick – had a passion for horses from an early age. David’s grandfather worked for a veterinary surgeon in Pembroke (Wales) and his father, Fred, was an experienced horseman and a well-known pony dealer. David recalls his introduction to the saddle and his first, very early, retirement.

“Father had me riding when I was about two years old, using a harness out of a pram with a buckle in front, a buckle behind and buckles on both sides. As time went on the buckles were removed and I became number one jockey when he was breaking Welsh Mountain ponies, but I got bucked off so often that I retired from the sport when I was five!”

However, two years later everything changed with the arrival of a pony called Beauty. “I took a fancy to her so I started again, and my career kind of went from there!” he says.

Ponies

Fred was always on the lookout for talented ponies for his children. “The ones we kept were good, like Ballan Lad who had a run of 28 clears. Every one of them cost 60 quid (GB Pounds) and I had a great career in 14.2s. There were about five shows in which I jumped three clear rounds on all three ponies in the same class. We only had one saddle, so I could have a little breather while the saddle was being changed over!”

David told his teachers at Monmouth Grammar School that he wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but it wasn’t true. Working on the farm and riding horses was what really appealed to him but he knew they wouldn’t approve of that. “I left school when I was 17 and the horses were there and one thing seemed to follow another,” he says.

“My first year in seniors I had a couple of horses my father used to ride. And then we bought one called Wildfire from the Monmouthshire Hunt that was next door to us – also for £60. He was stopping (refusing at fences) but he had competed Eventing. We straightened him out and he was a hunter hireling in the winter and then we started jumping the following spring. I’ll always remember our first show at Glanusk, there was a triple bar away from the collecting ring and we got eliminated. If ever there was a fence to test a stopper that was it. So my father said, ‘that fellow has just one more chance’. We went to Stowell Park the following week and on the second day he won three classes out of three!”

I’m loving how this man still treasures these early achievements in a career that was nothing less than glorious.

Wildfire

I ask him to describe Wildfire. “A 16.1hh bay gelding with a swishy tail, ears pinned back, and a sour look, but he and I had a great relationship and he busted a gut for me,” David says. A rule-change worked to the advantage of the partnership because when time was introduced into the sport then Wildfire really came into his own.

“It used to be that three clear rounds decided the result, but when we started jumping against the clock I was made up. Wildfire was really sharp, a thoroughbred with plenty of speed and a beautiful bouncy canter you could adjust. Against the clock he was just heaven! He put me on the road, he was Leading Horse in Britain in 1959, and then he got me on the Olympic team until Sunsalve came along,” David explains.

His ability to get along with tricky horses is well-documented, and when I ask David about that he says he owed a lot to the experience he gained during his pony-riding years. “I had three ponies and they all went entirely differently. One galloped on and scotched up (shortened) when he got to a fence, he just couldn’t do a one-striding double in one stride so he always took two so I always had to milk my way through a combination. The second one was a very old-fashioned one, you set him up and you had three strides to get your bumph (distance) to it, and the third was a short-tailed cob called Chocolate who just went on an even keel the whole way around. I was so lucky because it trained me to ride three different ways,” he points out.

Big names

So who were the big names in showjumping when David was moving up the ladder in his career? “Pat Smythe, Harry Llewellyn, and Alan Oliver, and then I eventually ran up against Harvey (Smith) when I was 19.”

The tough Yorkshireman Harvey would become one of the most popular and colourful characters in the sport in years to come and the perfect foil to the quiet but determined Welshman. So how was it when they first met at a show in Northampton? “I felt total respect really; he was self-made, hardworking, and we became great friends outside the arena. But inside it was bloody hellfire!”

What was their rivalry like? “He made me better, and hopefully I made him better as well. With a lot of good sportsmen, you need two of them in the game at the same time so they push each other.

“He was one of best losers I ever came across because if he was having a bad time, then five minutes after he left the ring he was absolutely normal again. But when he was a winner it was a very different story because he was the biggest pain you’ve ever come across – he’d say we were all useless and that none of the rest of us could ride!” David says with big laugh.

It was a twist of fate that saw Wildfire being replaced by Sunsalve for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. “We had one of our Olympic training sessions at Ninian Park Football Club in Cardiff and Pat Smythe had just been given the ride on Sunsalve. She won the class and I think I was second, and on the way home my father said, ‘Pat won today, but that horse will never go for her again.’ It was a strange thing to say after someone has won, but he was a real horseman and he’d seen something and he was right. From there we went on a European tour to Wiesbaden (GER) and Lucerne (SUI), and Sunsalve never did go again for Pat.

Sent it back

“So the Olympic Committee said the horse was useless and sent it back to the owner, Mr Anderson in Norfolk. As it happened, in our pony trade we had a lady in Newmarket called Ann Hammond – we sold her 465 ponies over the years. And when we were at her place a couple of weeks later, my father asked if she knew Mr Anderson and she said she did. She agreed to introduce us; we borrowed her car and set off for his little farm and father and he got on like a house on fire! Mr Anderson had bred the horse and his daughter had ridden it and won the Queen’s Cup with it. In ten minutes, over a cup of tea, he had given Sunsalve to us,” David explains.

It wouldn’t be all plain sailing to begin with. “Ten days later we went to a show and he went well, but at the next event I took both Sunsalve and a little horse called Discutido and they were both eliminated in a £20 class! So my father asked if the organisers would leave the jumps up after the Musical Chairs (a novelty class always staged at the end of horse shows in those days) and we schooled both of them afterwards.

“Four days later Sunsalve won the King’s Cup (King George V Gold Cup) at the White City, the following week Discutido won the National Championship and the next week I won the Grand Prix in Dublin with Sunsalve,” David recalls.

That was followed by the Olympics in Rome where the individual competition was staged at the beautiful Piazza di Siena where David and Sunsalve clinched individual bronze while host-country heroes Raimondo and Piero d’Inzeo took gold and silver.

Team final

The team final took place at the Olympic Stadium a few days later, and Great Britain was among eight countries to be eliminated while Germany, USA, and Italy topped the podium.

David remembers that day well because he learned something he’d never forget. “When I jumped the first round in the morning there were about 8,000 spectators, but when we came back for the second round in the afternoon there were about 120,000 and I couldn’t believe it! When the bell went, I cantered down to the first fence and missed it (got the stride on approach wrong) because I was all nerves. But luckily the horse got me out of it and I pulled myself together and he went clear after that. I decided that day that nerves don’t do you any good, and apart from getting a few butterflies an hour before the King’s Cup or something like that, nerves never affected me again. I decided when you go in the ring the only thing you have to worry about is how your horse is going, nothing else will help you; the occasion has nothing to do with it. That stood with me for the rest of my career,” he says.

The King’s Cup, the Grand Prix trophy in Dublin, and the Olympic bronze medal in Rome were already in the bag when David and Sunsalve headed for the World Championships in Venice (Italy) where they also claimed individual bronze.

“I was so lucky to have Sunsalve when I had him. I was just 20 at the time and when I rode him, I let him gallop on, and the horse thought he was doing it his way. If I’d had him later in my life, I would have tried to change him and he probably wouldn’t have been a tenth of the horse that he turned out to be. I’ve ridden a lot of horses, but he was THE Olympic horse. He jumped like a deer; his jump was unbelievable,” says the Welshman.

Sports Personality

There’s a wonderful YouTube clip of David being presented with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award for his 1960 achievements in which, clearly to David’s astonishment, Sunsalve is brought into the studio and he is legged up onto the horse in front of the equally astonished audience. Showjumping was prime-time viewing in Britain at the time, and this award gave the sport an even bigger boost.

David’s CV is beyond staggering. He claimed individual bronze again at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico riding Mister Softee and World Championships individual gold with Beethoven in 1970, as well as team gold with Philco in 1978. His European Championship record includes a double of golds with Mister Softee in 1967 and 1969, team silver with Philco in 1977, team gold in 1979 riding Queensway Big Q, and team silvers again in 1983 and 1991 riding Mr Ross and Lannegan.

And then there is the coveted King George V Gold Cup which he scooped six times on six different horses. “In the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was the ultimate class to win, and it’s such a beautiful trophy,” David says. The first time he won it with Sunsalve he kept it for six months on a shelf just inside the front door of his house. But as the years went by it became near-priceless so by the time he claimed it for the final time in 1991 he handed it over to his patron, Lord Harris, “because his security was a bit better than mine!” David says.

Then and now

I ask David to compare the sport back then to the way it is now. “Jumps are nowhere near as big nowadays. We had one oxer in Mexico – the front pole was about 5ft 4ins (1.64m), it was a 6ft 6ins (2.1m) spread, and the back pole was 5ft 8ins (1.76). Only two horses jumped it in the whole of the Games. I’ve never seen a fence like it before or since! When Olaf Petersen came along, he changed the sport so it became more technical, and that saved it in a lot of ways. The only thing is we’ve now gone away from testing a horse’s bravery and I think something needs to be done about that. In showjumping the narrowest fence is 8 feet (2.43m) wide, but in eventing it’s four feet (1.2m) so why not have some narrow fences and test riders’ control of their horses,” he suggests.

David was hugely influential in the establishment of the FEI Jumping World Cup™ series. “I won the Grand Prix in ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) – there were only six or eight indoor shows in those days – and I thought we need to have a final for all these indoor shows.

“We had formed the International Jumping Riders Club around that time and Prince Philip was President of the FEI and thought it was a great idea. He invited us to send two representatives every year to the Bureau Meeting at the General Assembly to air views and make suggestions which was a great breakthrough, so I went along with Eric Wauters. I spoke to Paul Schockemohle and he said I know a man that will sponsor the series, Mr Gyllenhammar from Volvo, and then Max Ammann jumped on the bandwagon and took it over and that’s how it all started,” he says.

Favourites

When asked to name some of his favourite venues and events, David replies, “I always love the day of the Aga Khan Cup (Nations Cups) in Dublin, Rome just because of where it is, Olympia (London) because it’s probably the best indoor show, but Aachen these days is the number one venue in the world. If they had the World Championships there every year, I don’t think anyone would complain!” he answers.

Who were the opponents he most admired during his career? “Well Harvey because he was always the man to try to beat because he never gave up. Alwin Schockemohle because he was the ultimate professional. He would be second-last to go in the jump-off and go into the lead, but when he came out of the ring, he’d give his horse two or three minutes settle-down work while the last horse was jumping. Everyone else would be jumping off their horse to watch the last one go and hope they didn’t beat you. But not Alwin: he’d quietly school his horse ready for tomorrow. He was a real horseman. His technique for having horses leg-to-hand, having them supple, well mannered – he was superb. I always admired him and he is the loveliest man.

“And Rodney Jenkins – I watched him warm up Idle Dice at Madison Square Gardens in New York and he trotted down to a 5ft 6ins rail and the horse just popped it. The Americans’ position in the saddle was always fantastic. We started off in our careers doing acrobatics, but the Americans were always perfectly balanced. Bill Steinkraus – his legs never moved, and you only get that style if you have the horse going correctly,” he points out.

Proudest moment

David’s proudest moment comes as a bit of a surprise, “when I won the Foxhunter (Novice Championship) with Top of the Morning jumping the only the clear round at Wembley,” he says. And what’s his advice to competitors in the sport today? “Remember that you don’t necessarily win more the more often you jump.”

In recent years David’s attention has turned to the Wales and West showground at Mount Ballan Manor which hosts many events throughout the year including a hugely popular Home Pony International. “It has been the second part of my life,” he says. “My father wanted to build the Welsh version of Hickstead, so he started about five years after Hickstead was created and I like to think we’ve been successful. We run a happy show; it’s now organised by my sons James and Matthew and they do a great job and I’m proud of them.”

Reflecting on his sparkling career, David concludes, “I was a farmer’s son and horses have taken me around the world. I’ve been lucky in so many different ways. I was very lucky to meet Lord Harris who supported me from when I was 30 onwards and I’ve had some wonderful horses and some great sporting days. For all that I can only be eternally grateful.”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

FEI Earns Top Tier Ranking in Key Global Governance Review

The FEI has welcomed its top tier classification in the Association for Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) governance review that was released this week.

The FEI joins the BWF (Badminton), FIFA (Football), ITF (Tennis), UCI (Cycling), and World Rugby as one of six International Federations that ASOIF said “stood out from the rest” after scoring between 170 and 187 points out of a possible 200 on a self-assessment questionnaire.

The International Federations were divided into groups based on their total score, with the top six all being placed in the A1 group, the highest classification that can be achieved. This is the third review conducted by ASOIF following similar governance audits in 2017 and 2018, and the first time that the performance of each International Federation has been made public.

“We are pleased to see these results which is testimony to the hard work we have undertaken over the years to ensure we have robust governance structures and practices in place,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

“While governance is an evolving concept, the one constant is the public expectation that our organisations will be run to the highest standards. The sports community has the duty to ensure that this is done to the very best of our ability and there can be no shortcuts when working to instill and maintain best practice.

“The report’s findings are good news for us as the governing body for equestrian sport and we remain just as committed to regularly reviewing our internal procedures and to make changes when and where necessary.”

A total of 31 International Federations participated in the study which checked their governance structures against 50 measurable indicators covering five areas: Transparency, Integrity, Democracy, Development, and Control Mechanisms.

The questionnaire was slightly revised for 2019-20 to incorporate two new indicators on safeguarding and on data protection/IT security. An independent sports governance consultancy, I Trust Sport, reviewed the responses and moderated the scores through evidence-based evaluation.

The full report is 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 Tribunal Dismisses Athlete Appeals on Villeneuve-Loubet Decision

An appeal against the FEI decision to annul results from competitions held in France where Olympic and Longines Ranking points were on offer has been dismissed by the FEI Tribunal.

The appeals by Sri Lanka’s Mathilda Karlsson and Romanian athlete Andrea Herck, which were consolidated by the FEI Tribunal, resulted from the international governing body’s decision in February of this year to retrospectively remove six competitions from three FEI Jumping Events held in Villeneuve-Loubet in December 2019 and a further six competitions from three events at the same venue in January 2020.

The decision was based on the findings from an investigation launched by the FEI after concerns were raised about the integrity of these events. The investigation established that, contrary to the FEI Rules (Article 110.2.3 of the FEI General Regulations), two competitions counting for the Olympic and Longines Rankings were added at each of the three December 2019 events after the respective Definite Entries deadlines. The updated Schedules for these events were submitted by the French National Federation and were mistakenly approved by the FEI.

As a result, and in accordance with Article 112.3 of the FEI General Regulations, the FEI retrospectively removed these additional competitions, meaning that athletes who participated lost their ranking points from these competitions. The decision meant that the Olympic and Longines Rankings were updated, resulting in Mathilda Karlsson dropping from second to seventh in the Group G Olympic Rankings and Sri Lanka losing its Olympic individual quota slot.

Additionally, the FEI established that three of the six events at Villeneuve-Loubet in January 2020 also had two classes counting for Longines Rankings points added after the Definite Entries deadline, again contrary to the FEI Rules. As a result, these additional competitions were also removed retrospectively and athletes that participated lost their ranking points for these competitions. Andrea Herck’s appeal was based on the loss of Longines Ranking points following the removal of the additional competitions at Villeneuve-Loubet.

In its Final Decision, the Tribunal found that the integrity of the sport had been jeopardised and therefore ruled that “justified circumstances” existed which allowed the FEI Secretary General to make the decision to remove the competitions and annul the Olympic and Longines ranking points from these competitions.

The FEI Tribunal, which is an independent body, ruled that the FEI’s decision of 17 February 2020 to remove the competitions was “rightfully taken” and dismissed the appeals. Each party will pay their own costs in the proceedings.

“This is an important decision to ensure the integrity of the sport, and particularly the Olympic and Longines Rankings,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said.

The parties have 21 days from the date of notification (16 June 2020) to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The full Decision is available here.

FEI media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56

Princes, Prima Donnas, and Proving Carl Wrong

(L to R) Nip Tuck, groom Alan Davies, and Carl Hester. (FEI/Cara Grimshaw)

On his debut as a roving reporter, Shetland social media influencer Beachboy Jasper visits Carl Hester’s yard in Gloucestershire, England where he gets the lowdown on some of the inmates. His timing isn’t perfect because the big names have just gone hacking in the morning sunshine. But Bella the Broodmare is at home, and she’s more than pleased to show him around and spill the beans about some of the most popular personalities in the sport of Dressage….

“Don’t worry about the dogs,” says Bella, as I’m surrounded by at least a dozen of them jumping and barking with excitement. I’m not bothered because when you’re handsome, debonair, and sophisticated then being the centre of attention is all in a day’s work. But I get a bit of a fright when a flock of ferocious two-legged things come thundering towards me, led by a colossal beast with its tail-feathers fanned out and shrieking at the top of its head.

“Don’t worry about that lot either – it’s just peacocks and chickens and ducks and guinea fowl. There are so many attention-seekers around this place – it’s mad, to be honest!” Bella says with a giggle.

I compose myself as best I can while keeping a beady eye on the peacock that seems to be stalking me, and ask what life has been like over the last few months while most of us ponies and horses have had nowhere to go with competitions called off because of the people-virus? “Well Carlos Santana has been fussing about managing the finances and running the yard – all that ‘I’ve got staff and I’m responsible for so many people’ stuff y’know? But I reckon he’s enjoyed every minute of it. Anyway, he’s back teaching again this week so that’s keeping him quiet,” she explains.

It’s a lovely yard, and I peek over the door of the stable normally occupied by Valegro who, I’m told, is nearly as good a mover as myself. He’s won a few shiny things and people make a lot of fuss of him. At home he’s called Blueberry, so what is he like?

“A gentleman to his tippy-toes,” she says. “He never made a fuss about all the big wins he had, never bowed to the pressure or changed his personality; he’s always stayed humble, always helpful, and extremely happy to see everybody. He loves a good cuddle, especially from children. But boy [I knew there had to be a weak spot], does he like his grub!”

I’m admiring him even more now, sounds like my kind of chap. “Even the year he went to the Olympic Games in London (2012) and won double-gold, he couldn’t control his appetite.

“You’ve never seen anything like it; there’s nothing he doesn’t eat. He goes on and on about his diet and controlling his waistline, but he just can’t seem to stop himself!”

Bella can’t seem to stop herself either, now that she’s on a roll she wants to dish all the dirt. “Y’know, there are days when this nice lady called Tricia Gardiner comes to hack him out and the pair of them are gone for hours. Not because he’s doing any real work. No, it’s just that she’s not strong enough to hold him when he drags her into every hedgerow along the way so he can nibble the nice pickings. He comes back munching bits of twigs and sticks and branches and looking very pleased with himself every time – he’s unreal!”

Not what I was expecting to hear about the horse who has set more world records than most of us have had bran mashes, but you can tell that Bella really admires him. “Charlotte (Dujardin) rode him beautifully, and I think he was always grateful that Carl was there to help her handle the pressure at the big events. He achieved so much, and we’re all very proud of him here – Blueberry is a prince!” she insists.

However, she doesn’t feel quite the same about Mount St John Freestyle, the mare, also ridden by Charlotte, who brought home two medals from the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) 2018 in Tryon, USA and who won the FEI Dressage World Cup™ qualifier at London Olympia (GBR) last season.

“Now there’s a bossy one,” says Bella with a bit of a growl. “She’s a right prima donna; it’s all about her; she wants everything and she wants it ‘now!’ She wants to be fed before everyone else, she wants to come in from the field when she wants to come in – not two minutes later, she only wants to go out if it’s nice and sunny because she doesn’t want to get wet or have a hair out of place even if it’s only slightly windy or rainy. She’s a bit annoying, if you ask me.…

“At least now she’s learned that she does actually have to do a day’s work. And OK, she’s good at it, but she’s been building up a bit of a fan-club and that’s just making her fancy herself even more. She’s a right one, I’m telling you!”

So I move on to ask about Nip Tuck, who I’ve heard is a bit of a character. “We call him Barney and, to be honest, he’s a head-case but a very sweet one. He’s part of the gang that go out in the field at night-time. There are 18 horses here and only eight live out at night… the ‘normal’ ones go out during the day and the daft ones at night so they can run the Grand National if they like, but at least they have their brains in their heads when it comes to working the following morning.”

It seems Bella has a big soft spot for Barney. “He’s hysterical; he’s tipped Carl off a good few times because he’s scared of his own shadow. He’s a big fellow and should be brave as a lion but instead he’s really spooky and scared of a mouse! I remember him telling me how he fell on Carl when he got a huge fright because a waiter dropped a tray as he was passing by at a show (at Aachen, Germany European Championships in 2015), but sure he’s done that here at home too. They were going out the gate at the end of the avenue one day and something scared him, and he went into reverse and knocked down the gate-pillars – mad stuff! And Carl came home from the Olympics in Rio (2016) with whiplash because he spun around during a test for no real reason at all – Barney couldn’t even explain it himself afterwards!”

But he took team silver at those Europeans in Aachen, and again at the WEG in Caen in 2014 and in Rio in 2016, so how did Barney manage to do all that if he’s such a scaredy-cat? “I think it’s because there were no big expectations of him. Carl used to say, ‘Barney will never do this, he’ll never do that, he’ll never be a championship horse, he’ll never do a Grand Prix, he’ll never get around that ring in Olympia.’ But he did all of those things because he tried really hard. He even won at Olympia which he says is the scariest arena in the world because the spectators are almost sitting on top of you. And he did it not once, but twice. In the end I reckon he did it all because he really enjoyed proving Carl wrong!” Bella says.

All this talk about working so hard is a bit exhausting. I ask the mare if it’s been boring having to #stayhome and not do very much over the last few months. “No, quite the opposite; we all had a really nice time, lots of freedom, lovely grass, sunny weather, sunbathing all day – it’s been dreamy actually,” she explains. So how is everyone feeling about getting back to work now that things are slowly starting again?

“Well we’ve got two completely different attitudes here. Charlotte is preparing like the Olympic Games might suddenly and miraculously come back to life this year even though we know they won’t be happening until next summer. She’s off to Hickstead in a few weeks for something called the Rotterdam Hickstead online challenge and she can’t wait.

“But Carl? Well he has no intention of putting himself under pressure until he absolutely has to. Charlotte doesn’t call him ‘Grandad’ for nothing you know….”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Be Not Afraid: Jim Wofford

Jim Wofford and Kilkenny on their way to clinching team silver and individual sixth place at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. (Photo copyright Werner Ernst)

An interview with James Cunningham Wofford is not something to be taken lightly. Any attempt at leading the conversation fails miserably, because you are talking with a man with the most exceptional communications skills and extraordinary stories to tell. There’s a sense of riding the tide of equestrian history as the double-Olympian and world-famous American coach recalls sporting highlights, great horses, and magical moments from his stellar career.

But it’s a bit like sitting on a runaway train, and even when you get to the end it feels like you’ve only half-halted. Because you just know that there are many more tales to be told and lots more wisdom to be shared by this raconteur par excellence.

I begin by asking him if he always had Olympic ambitions, and he admits it was “in my cross-hairs from a very early age.” Not surprising really considering his father, Col John W. Wofford, who later became first President of the United States Equestrian Team (USET), competed in Jumping at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (USA) and his older brother, Jeb, helped claim bronze for Team USA in Eventing at the Helsinki (FIN) Games in 1952. Another brother, Warren, went to the top of the sport in both Jumping and Eventing and was reserve for the US Eventing team at the Olympic Games in Stockholm (SWE) in 1956. That’s quite some pedigree just there.

When Jim was growing up, Jeb and his Helsinki team-mates Champ Hough – father of American Jumping star Lauren Hough – and Wally Staley were his childhood heroes. “Then along came Mike Plumb and Michael Page – I looked up to them for years so when I joined them on the US team that was a real thrill!” Jim says.

Did he ever have any doubts about his ability to make it to the top in sport? “I had terrific doubts, and at first I didn’t have a suitable horse. I was riding around on a 15.3hh roan Appaloosa. However, Warren lived in England, and in spring 1967 he went to Ireland looking for horses and saw Kilkenny who was for sale because he’d been to the Olympics, the World Championships, and Badminton and they reckoned he was pretty much done.

Kilkenny

“Warren called my mother and said what a cool schoolmaster the horse would be, so they sent him to me and suddenly I was the hottest kid on the block! We had an unusual partnership; we really shot to the top, from him being thought to be over the hill with all his mileage and me having never been anywhere of any repute – they put us together and it just worked. So we won the National Championships at my first try, and now I’m standing on the podium with Mike Page and Mike Plumb!”

Kilkenny had previously been ridden by Irishman Tommy Brennan who, following a stellar Jumping and Eventing career, became a world-renowned horse agent and cross-country course designer. Did Jim have a preference for what discipline he would compete in with the horse? “I was intrigued by showjumping, but I was a moth to a flame when it came to Eventing!” he says.

Kilkenny had already enjoyed a successful career in both disciplines. “In late summer ’64 he went to Tokyo (Olympic Games where he finished individually 16th in Eventing), in ’65 he went showjumping with Tommy, and in ’66 he was back on the Irish gold medal Eventing team at the World Championships in Burghley,” Jim explains.

I ask him to describe Kilkenny: “He was a 17hh dark bay gelding by Water Serpent with a mealy nose, a tiny star on his forehead, and the look of eagles. When he trotted by you in hand, he had all four feet off the ground!”

He had seen every sort of situation which was handy for me because I’d seen none of them. So I could just drop my hands and tell him to get on with the job which he was happy to do!”

That US National Championships victory was in 1967, and the following year they competed at Badminton (GBR) in preparation for, arguably, the most memorable Eventing Olympic Games of all time in Mexico in 1968.

In the heyday of the “classic format,” the toughness and versatility of horse and rider were fully tested. Dressage was followed by Speed and Endurance day which consisted of two sessions of Roads and Tracks interspersed by a steeplechase phase, and then a vet check before heading out on the cross-country course. The final day’s showjumping decided the result.

Mexico

Talking about selection for Mexico, Jim says, “Plumb and Page would never be left off the team if their horse was sound, and Kevin Freeman was such a marvellous horseman, maybe the best rider of all of us. So there was really one slot left, and fortunately I filled that.” However, the Americans were steeped in good fortune when drawn early to go on Speed and Endurance day, because an afternoon deluge created monstrous conditions that nearly claimed the life of Kilkenny’s former rider.

“I went early and was first out of the box for us. We were on top of the ground so I had the fastest round of the day and I think Michael may have had the second-fastest. When you look back at the scores it’s two different competitions, but it could all have been completed in sunshine!” Jim recalls.

Despite knowing that a monsoon would descend around 13.00 hours as it did every day, the start-time was not adjusted and those that set out later in the competition met with a nightmare. “Once the heavy rain began the volcanic soil became a morass immediately. It was a golf course; there was a shell of grass over this powdery substance that turned to soup under wet conditions and we got the biggest monsoon of the five weeks we were up there!” Jim explains.

Tommy Brennan was only called into action at the last minute with the reserve Irish horse, March Hawk. Second-last to go, he faced inches of water on the steeplechase track where he took a fall on the flat, and by the time he headed out cross-country a stream that had to be crossed several times had become a dangerous flood in full spate. Only the top few inches of Fence 5 were visible and Fence 6 was almost fully submerged. Horse and rider were swept away and disappeared underwater, both in danger of drowning. But somehow, they struggled ashore and continued a little further before March Hawk decided he’d had more than enough.

Great Britain claimed team gold, USA silver, and West Germany bronze. Jim’s compatriot Michael Page (Foster) took individual bronze and Jim and Kilkenny slotted into sixth place.

Punchestown

The World Championship in Punchestown (IRL) two years later was another dramatic affair, but Kilkenny’s class saw Jim take individual bronze this time around.

Once again there was controversy on cross-country day with a big number of fallers late on the track. “The Irish knew they had to lead with their strength and that was the quality of their horses, so they designed a course that was maximum in every aspect – distance, speed, dimension of obstacles, number of obstacles. This was always going to be a big test, and that suited me because I had a horse purpose-built for it!” he points out.

“But no-one knew there was a bogey fence at the 29th. You came through the woods above the old sheep tank and you galloped on a trail and then there was a guard rail and the ground fell away precipitously, and six feet out there was an oxer rail stuffed with gorse. You were supposed to gallop and jump out over the oxer and take a 6ft 6ins drop – it’s what Americans call a ‘gut-check’, a test of courage, scope, and balance. But what the course designer didn’t take into account was a few fences before that there was a double-bank, and it rehearsed the horses to step on the gorse which they did again and again. As they built up the brush every time, they kept stuffing the fence with more green branches so it was even more inviting for the horses to step on it.

“Something like 27 horses got that far and 24 of them fell including Kilkenny, and including Richard Meade (GBR) who got the silver medal. But Mary Gordon-Watson’s (GBR who took individual gold) horse jumped it neat as a pin. Nowadays, if there were two falls like that the jump would be removed from the course and adjustments made in the scores. But in 1968 this was still a sport run by cavalry generals!” Jim says.

Munich

The Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 brought his partnership with this faithful steed to an end. The US side that also included Mike Plumb with Free and Easy, Kevin Freeman riding Good Mixture, and Bruce Davidson with Plain Sailing claimed team silver, but for Jim and Kilkenny it wasn’t their finest hour.

“I rode according to orders instead of the way I should have, and we finished well down the list. But he didn’t get the ride he needed so that’s nothing to say about him. At our silver medal victory bash, I said that Kilkenny would retire now and come home. He was property of my mother, but my brother (Warren) who was a Master of Foxhounds in England was dropping heavy hints about what a wonderful Fieldmaster’s horse he would be, so I had to have a little palace revolution there to make sure he did come home!”

Kilkenny’s cross-country days were still not quite over, however, because he hunted another few seasons with Jim and his wife Gail back in the US, even though he wasn’t the ideal candidate because he was a bit over-keen. “He couldn’t bear to have another horse in front of him, and Gail was too brave with him!” Jim points out.

There was a lean period after Munich. “I was ‘on the bench’ and I knew part of it was because I’d ridden badly in Munich, but also because I didn’t have a horse of Olympic capability,” he says.

Carawich

All that would change however when he met Carawich. Jim insists he doesn’t believe in anthropomorphism – attributing human traits and emotions to non-humans – but then tells the story of how they first met.

He hadn’t won a competition above Preliminary level since 1972 when, at Badminton in the Spring of 1977, he experienced a moment of connection during the vet-check when a horse stopped and turned to look at him. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck – he picked me out of the crowd and stared at me. His groom tugged on the lead, but he didn’t listen – it took about 30 seconds but it seemed like an hour!” Jim recalls, with excitement still in his voice after all these years.

The horse wasn’t for sale at the time but came on the market a few months later. “He arrived in late December 1977 untried. I took out a loan on my life insurance policy to pay for him and it was the best investment I ever made!” says Jim.

“Carawich suited me as the rider I was after two Olympics and one World Championship. We went to Lexington World Championships (Kentucky, USA) in ’78 where we finished 10th and were on the bronze medal team, and then we were fifth at Badminton the following spring and then second at the alternate Olympics in Fontainebleau (FRA) in 1980. We were second in the Kentucky event that spring and won Kentucky the following year. He was quite some horse too!”

More great horses

An injury sustained at Luhmuehlen (GER) in 1981 put an end to Carawich’s career, but Jim still had more great horses to ride. There was Castlewellan who came his way when British rider Judy Bradwell, in recovery following a nasty accident, asked him if he knew of a suitable new US owner for the horse.

“I said don’t go away, and in about 30 minutes we had a deal! He came over that summer, again untried, and we won a big Intermediate event. Then in Spring ’84 we were well-placed at Kentucky and then we were non-riding reserves at the LA Olympic Games.”

Jim retired after that, but two years later came out of retirement for one more moment of glory. Offered the ride on The Optimist, normally competed by America’s Karen Lende (now O’Connor) who was riding in Australia that year, he jumped at the chance.

“He was a big bull of a horse, Irish-bred, 16.3hh and a bit big-eared and small-eyed, with massive shoulders like a bullock. He’d run away with everyone who got on him, but he had a wonderful attitude going down to jumps,” Jim recalls. It wouldn’t be all plain sailing, but again a moment of connection would turn everything around.

“For about a week or 10 days I thought I’d painted myself in a corner because we were not getting along at all,” he explains. However, he accidentally caught the horse unawares in the stable one day, and The Optimist didn’t have time to put on his normal sullen expression. Instead Jim got a fleeting glimpse of a bright, intelligent, focused horse. “I laughed and shook my finger at him and said, ‘It’s too late; I saw you!’” Jim says. “I suddenly realised he didn’t want to be told what to do; he already knew his job, so the next time I threw my leg over him I did it with that in mind and we got along famously. He won a couple of prep events and then he won Kentucky. And then I quickly retired again!” Jim says.

Talent

When asked to compare the talent of riders from his own era with those of today, he replies, “This stuff about ‘Oh we were better in the good old days’ – don’t you believe it! I lived through the good old days – these people today would beat us like a carpet!” he insists. There have been many changes in the sport, of course. “Riders are in a much more predictable situation these days. When they are pacing distances between cross-country obstacles, you know it’s a different sport.”

And the horses – are there big differences in them too? “In the classic format they had to be brave as a lion because we jumped some formidable stuff. We don’t test now for strength of character in the horse – today it’s a test of technique,” he points out.

For many years now he’s been a dedicated and hugely successful coach, and he enjoys training pupils at all levels. He’s looking forward to getting back to working with his students again very soon and seeing how “profitably” they’ve used this time during the pandemic shutdown. “Will they have improved their horses’ training, or will they have worn them out by endlessly practicing competitive details?” he wonders.

I ask what advice he has for riders concerned about returning to competition in the shadow of the virus still sweeping across the world, and he replies, “Event riders are already bio-mechanically engineered not to be afraid, so don’t be afraid! Know the risks and the safeguards, and go from there.”

Life, he concludes, is like the wording on a famous painting, “The Bullfinch” by English artist Snaffles – “glorious uncertainty” is what awaits us all on the landing side. And, for James Cunningham Wofford, that’s all part of the thrill of the ride.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

Health, Horses, and Haircuts: Kevin Babington

Kevin Babington and Carling King competing at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece where they placed joint-fourth individually. (FEI/Dirk Caremans)

Kevin Babington had just had his hair cut when I spoke with him last week, and in these strange times that’s a cause for major celebration. Around the globe people have been prevented from keeping their curls under control due to pandemic lockdowns. But as the US-based Irish Olympian and 2001 European Jumping team gold medallist explained, the situation in Florida (USA) has recently returned to some kind of normality and it’s boom-time for hairdressers – “Mine is booked solid for the next three weeks!” he said with a laugh.

I had called to ask him about the sustainable bedding his company, Babington Mills, has been producing, and was reminded of his passion for animals, farming, and the countryside. Kevin and his wife and family have been dealing with the aftermath of a life-changing fall sustained while competing last summer which has left him wheelchair-bound. But in a conversation just nine months later, you find that the man who hails from County Tipperary has his eyes firmly fixed on the future of his business, his rehab, and his sport.

He tells me the idea of the bedding came across his radar when he found some bagged product in Germany a number of years ago. “I got this urge to bring it to America, so I did a lot of research and bought machinery in Denmark where they produce quite a lot of it,” Kevin explains.

“While I was travelling, I also came across different horse-feeds so I decided to create a version of forage feed myself, using grains from organic farmers. It was a big investment, but it’s a fantastic way to go for horses,” he insists.

Slows down intake

His low-starch, low-sugar forage feed slows down intake and creates a lot more saliva which helps prevent gastric ulcers. “It’s good for the whole digestive tract because the horse takes longer to chew so it’s a buffer for ulcers. With pelleted or sweet feed, they are inclined to gulp it down and you get a splashback effect,” he explains.

When it came to the bedding it took some time to refine his particular version, putting 800lb straw bales through a chopper, then running it through a hammer-mill which opens up the node of the straw and creates the soakage that sets it apart from the rest.

“Conventional straw has little soakage, but at the length we chop it then it’s like mucking out shavings,” Kevin says. “You have to start out with good quality straw with less than 10% moisture content. It’s so absorbent that it works almost like cat litter and it’s easier to find the droppings, you use a fraction of the amount of regular straw on your horse’s bed and we run it through a dust extractor so it’s really good for hypo-allergenic horses. The finished product is very clean,” he adds.

But are horses not inclined to eat their yummy bedding? “For some reason they are less likely to eat it than long straw. When you first put a horse in on it, they might nibble at it but it won’t to do them any harm. The odd horse might eat it, but they are grazing animals and sometimes hay gets mixed up with it, so nibbling all night is really good for them,” he points out.

And bedding has become the biggest part of the Babington Mills business now, expanding into supply for small animals like hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs – “We use a smaller chop for them – it’s a bit of a different process and they live very happily on it,” Kevin adds.

No surprise

The fact that Kevin feels good about keeping animals, big and small, happy and comfortable doesn’t come as any surprise. I recall the story his wife, Dianna, told while she was dealing with her own anguish following his accident last August in which she described her husband as “kind, above all things.”

Late one night some years ago they were driving home from their barn in a snowstorm along barely passable back roads when they came across a deer that had been hit by a vehicle and left lying on the road with two broken legs. “Kevin approached her slowly, and put a blanket on her when he gained her trust. We stayed with her so she wouldn’t be hit again, and he talked to her and petted her while we waited for the police to come and humanely put her down.”

That’s just one measure of the man whose personal popularity led to the most phenomenal and emotional response from the equestrian world in the aftermath of his fall.

Anyway, back to business… and the Babington Mills Farm in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. “Deep down in my heart I always wanted to be a farmer!” Kevin admits. “I had this great idea of buying a farm and growing my own hay and doing some wheat each year.

“We bought the farm just after the big crash in 2008 when we didn’t know what direction the horse world was going. It’s in a very remote, rural area and I’d love to be up there now; I enjoy it very much,” Kevin says. It was close to the family home at the time and he was very involved in the running of it in the early stages, but then the horse business got busy again, so he got “a bit side-tracked”. The management of Babington Mills is now in the very capable hands of his sister-in-law Dawn Imperatore.

One of the aspects of the bedding production that pleases Kevin most is the fact that it is compostable. “We are surrounded by mushroom farmers and they are delighted to use it, and you can also spread it directly onto fields because it breaks down quicker than conventional straw.” It sounds like a perfect example of circular bioeconomy, using renewable natural resources in a way that pleases the environment.

New Jersey

Early last year the family moved to a beautiful new facility in New Jersey which is closer for many of Kevin’s pupils and clients, and they now share their time between there and their Florida base.

Kevin loves teaching and is still doing it from his wheelchair wearing a headset and accompanied by his “bodyguards,” the family’s three Australian shepherds Dylan, Millie, and his closest friend, three-year-old Delilah. But he misses riding, and that leads him to talk about his recovery programme.

“I’m working hard on my rehab and now have a good bit of movement in my right arm, almost to the point where I can manage the wheelchair with my hand, and I have twinges in my legs which the doctors call a good spasm. The C3 and C4 vertebrae affect your diaphragm, and I was on a ventilator for quite some time at the beginning, I’m off that for months now so my voice and my lungs are getting stronger.

“But it’s slow. I still have to deal with a fair amount of pain in the form of spasms, and unfortunately the physio practice I go to has been closed because of the virus, but it opens back up on 1 June and I’m really looking forward to getting back into that. I ride a stand-bike every day to keep my muscle tone up and do lots of exercises working on my strength,” says Kevin, who has also been using a hyperbaric oxygen chamber as part of his latest treatment.

Carling King

We move on to talk about the great horse that put him on the international stage, the Irish-bred chestnut Carling King who he describes as a real character, very strong, but definitely the horse of a lifetime. “We travelled the world together and my first Championship was in Arnhem (NED, where Ireland won European team gold in 2001), and my very first Nations Cup in Europe was Aachen (GER) so I was thrown right in at the deep end!

“It went from there: we were part of the winning team in Hickstead in 2000. I got to jump Spruce Meadows (CAN) a bunch of times, to the World Championships in Jerez (ESP in 2002), to the European Championships in Donaueschingen (GER in 2003), and Athens (GRE in 2004) for the Olympics. It was an amazing five or six-year run we had together,” he recalls, without actually reminding me that they finished eighth individually at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2002, tenth individually at the Europeans in 2003, and joint-fourth individually at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. They were an extraordinary partnership.

In recent years he remained prominent on the US circuit, and in early March this year he was appointed as one of three advisors to the Horse Sport Ireland High Performance Committee along with Taylor Vard and Cameron Hanley. With competition grinding to halt just a few weeks later he didn’t get the chance to share his expertise and wisdom, but when action resumes Kevin will undoubtedly make a great contribution to the Irish Jumping team in future years.

So how does he think equestrian sport will move on in the wake of the current pandemic? “Unfortunately, a lot of shows were already just about managing to survive and some of those may not make it through this. It will be hard, and some of the vendors and smaller sponsors will be struggling. Once things start to reopen – as long as we don’t have a second wave of the virus – the sport should bounce back, although there’ll be changes for sure.

“But we’ll get through this; it’s a bump in the road but our sport was generally in a healthy place before this happened, and it will turn the corner. Everyone wants it to….”

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

FEI Publishes Return to Play Policy as Equestrian Adapts to “New Normal”

The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the Covid-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting Organisers and National Federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.

The Policy will apply to all FEI Events held as of 1 July 2020 and has been put in place to limit the risk of transmission and further spread of Covid-19 until an effective treatment and/or vaccine as determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) are available.

Developed by FEI Medical Committee Chair Dr Mark Hart together with FEI Headquarters, the Policy requires National Federations and Organisers to carry out a Risk Assessment to evaluate whether it is safe to hold their Events. The Policy includes general best practice recommendations for Organisers and is to be implemented in conjunction with any requirements imposed by the domestic authorities. In addition, discipline-specific guidance will be issued shortly by the FEI.

It is mandatory for FEI Event Organisers to conduct the risk assessment together with their National Federation and domestic government and public health authorities. Events for which the FEI has not received the completed risk assessment and mitigation measures plan will be removed from the FEI Calendar.

“Covid-19 has caused massive disruption to the FEI Calendar and to national events, with a huge impact on all the various participants of equestrian sports,” Dr Mark Hart said. “We are all in this together and this pandemic will be with us for at least 12-24 months. We need to adapt to a ‘new normal’ as we move forward.

“The FEI is committed to assisting National Federations and FEI Event Organisers by providing resources to effectively assess the risks potentially posed by Events from the planning phase and mitigate such risks through relevant measures.

“As we anticipate the gradual return of competitions, we must do everything we can to mitigate the risk of transmission and further spread of Covid-19. This is a matter of public health, and it’s also how a sport can demonstrate to public authorities that it is ready to resume activity.”

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