Category Archives: FEI

Horses Really Can Fly, Even If They’re Not Called Pegasus

Photo: Haneda history-making: the first full cargo load of horses ever to land in Tokyo’s Haneda airport ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Equestrian competitions. © FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi.

Can horses fly? Well yes, they can if they’re Olympic athletes!

In a piece of history-making, 36 of them flew into Japan last night – the first full cargo load of horses ever to land in Haneda, the waterfront airport that serves the greater Tokyo area and which is now welcoming a very different group of Olympic athletes.

“To see these horses arriving at Haneda airport is a truly historic occasion, and what makes it even more special is that these are not simply horses; they are Olympic horses,” Administrator of Tokyo International Airport Takahashi Koji said. “It’s a really big night for the airport, and particularly for the cargo team, and we see it as one of the major milestones of the final countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

The four-legged time travellers are all Equestrian Dressage horses and include some Olympic superstars, among them Bella Rose, the mare ridden by Germany’s Isabell Werth, the most decorated Olympic equestrian athlete of all time.

Also landing at Haneda en route to the stunning equestrian venue at Baji Koen, owned by the Japan Racing Association, is Gio, the ride of double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), who will be bidding for a three-in-a-row title in Tokyo.

The 36 equine passengers will be flying the flag for teams from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, and host nation Japan, as well as individuals from Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, and Morocco. They will be joined by a further group of Equestrian Dressage stars flying into Tokyo.

The first Olympic flight out of Europe saw the horses travelling from Liege in Belgium, where there’s even a special airport horse hotel, flying on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, a 90-minute refuel and crew change and then on to Tokyo.

From a sustainability perspective, Emirates has implemented a number of initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions where operationally feasible, including its long-standing operation of flexible routings in partnership with air navigation service providers to create the most efficient flight plan for each flight. The airline, which operates one of the world’s youngest aircraft fleets, also uses advanced data analytics, machine learning, and AI in its fuel monitoring and aircraft weight management programmes.

Like human passengers, all horses travel with a passport. They will already have undergone a 60-day health surveillance period prior to a seven-day pre-export quarantine. They all also have an export health certificate and are thoroughly checked over by veterinarians prior to boarding.

Business class travel

The horses fly two per pallet, or flying stable, which is the equivalent of business class. Their comfort and safety is ensured by flying grooms and an on-board veterinarian. Unlike two-legged passengers, the horses not only get their in-flight meals (including special meal requests of course), but are able to snack throughout the trip, on hay or haylage, except when they are taking a nap.

So as they are flying business class, does that mean the horses get flat beds to sleep in? Although horses might occasionally indulge in a spot of lying down to snooze in the sun at home, they actually sleep standing up. They have something called the “stay apparatus,” which allows tendons and ligaments to effectively lock the knees and hocks (in the hind legs) so that they don’t fall over while they’re dozing off. So there’s no need for flat beds on the flight.

A total of 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo across the two Games and the complex logistics for this massive airlift have been coordinated by transport agents, Peden Bloodstock, which has been in charge of Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960 and is the Official Equine Logistics Partner of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), global governing body for equestrian sport. Peden Bloodstock became title partner of the FEI Best Athlete Award in 2019.

A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, transported the precious equine cargo – and 13,500 kilograms of equipment – on the final transfer from Haneda to Baji Koen where the equine superstars had the chance to settle into their Olympic Athlete Village, a.k.a. the stables.

“Like all the athletes arriving into Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the horses are honed and ready to compete on the sporting world’s biggest stage,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “After all the challenges the world has faced, finally we’re almost there and now it’s only a matter of days before we hear those magical words, ‘Let the Games begin!’”

Equestrian sport in Tokyo 2020

A record number of countries – 50 – will be competing in the equestrian events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the introduction of new formats that limit teams to three members, meaning that more countries will have the opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage than ever before.

A total of seven countries will be fielding full teams in all three Olympic disciplines, including the host nation Japan. The others are Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and United States of America.

Unique gender equality

Equestrian is the only sport in the Olympic movement in which men and women compete head to head throughout the Games, making it a totally gender neutral sport. And the FEI doesn’t need a policy regarding transgender athletes as there are no requirements for our athletes to state their gender in order to participate in FEI competitions, or at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Equestrian is not a gender-affected sport that relies on the physical strength, stamina, and physique of an athlete as there are no gender based biological advantages. Success in equestrian is largely determined by the unique bond between horse and athlete and refined communication with the horse.

Sustainability

Sustainability is a key theme across the Games, and equestrian is very much a part of that. In line with Pillar 1 of the IOC Sustainability Strategy: Minimum Environmental Burden, the redevelopment of the Japan Racing Association-owned Baji Koen Park as the equestrian venue for Tokyo 2020 has minimised environmental impact and ensured the legacy of the venue used for the Tokyo Games in 1964.

“The original plan for equestrian put forward by the Tokyo Organising Committee was for a totally temporary venue in the Tokyo Bay area, but when the FEI was consulted on this as an option, we pushed for the alternative which was to re-use the 1964 Olympic equestrian venue at Baji Koen,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez says. “This was the optimal choice from a sustainability perspective as it minimises environmental impact, but it also ensures the legacy of this wonderful venue.”

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has incorporated a further sustainability initiative into the equestrian venue with the incineration of used bedding from the horses’ stables for power generation.

Aligned with Pillar 2 of the IOC Sustainability Strategy: Urban environment plans harmonising with nature, only native species that integrate well with local flora and fauna have been planted at the Sea Forest cross country venue. This includes the use of a native grass species, Zoysia japonica, for the footing on the course itself.

Click here for more information on Equestrian at the Olympic Games.

Media contact:

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

Taking It to the Max

At the draw for the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Paris in 1987 (L to R): Leslie Burr-Lenehan (USA), World Cup Director Max E Ammann, and Nick Skelton (GBR). (FEI Archive)

As the FEI celebrates its centenary, one man’s name stands out when it comes to the development of equestrian sport over the last 100 Years – journalist, historian, art collector, and creator of the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series, Mr. Max Ammann.

There are people who talk, and people who do, and Switzerland’s Max Ammann is very definitely one of the latter. Over a 30-year period from 1978 to 2008, he drove equestrian sport out of a culture of conservative complacency and into an era of energy and progress that has brought us to where we are today.

He didn’t do it alone. He had the support of the three FEI Presidents of his era, and in particular the late Prince Philip who championed many of his innovative ideas.

And the story began in the fishing, farming, and wine growing lakeside village of Ermatingen in Switzerland where his father kept horses on the family farm.

Two businesses

“For over 100 years our family had two businesses. One was local transport and the other was buying fruit and vegetables from farmers and delivering to big shops in Zurich and St Gallen. So we had five horses, and in 1945 my father decided to compete with them. At that time, we had Driving competitions on a local and national level, and he competed from 1946 until 1955. He was quite successful and I was his groom,” Max says.

That led to father and son travelling to many big horse shows over the following years, and when Max moved to New York in 1964 as Foreign Correspondent for Swiss, German, and Austrian newspapers he decided to drop in on the National Horse Show which, at the time, was staged in Madison Square Garden. “I met a lot of people including Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusner, and Bert de Nemethy. So I started writing about horses and horse shows for (Swiss magazines) Cavallo and Reiter Revue and (American publication) Chronicle of the Horse,” he explains.

He returned to Europe for the FEI World Championships in Jumping at La Baule (FRA) in 1970 and the Olympic Games in Munich (GER) in 1972, and then in 1973 relocated to Switzerland once again when taking up the job of Chief Editor at Luzerner Tagblatt, the daily newspaper in Lucerne.

Agreement

“I had an agreement that I would go to 10 or 15 horses shows every year, so I started with the CSIOs, which were the dominant events at the time, and then began going to indoor shows which were practically unknown. I was the only foreign journalist at s’Hertogenbosch (NED), Amsterdam (NED), Berlin (GER), or Dortmund (GER), but I wrote about the competitions and I could feel that there was something happening in the sport,” Max says.

What he was feeling was the change of mood brought about by the success of those World Championships in La Baule. The 1960s had been very difficult.

“Most international events in showjumping were held outside Europe at the time. The ’64 Olympics were in Tokyo (JPN), in ’68 they were in Montreal (CAN), and in ’66 the World Championships in Jumping were in Argentina. Also that year the big Swamp Fever (Equine Infectious Anaemia) crisis happened, and as a result no continental Europeans competed at the Eventing World Championships in Burghley (GBR) and no Irish or British competed at the European Jumping Championships in Lucerne (SUI).”

Change for the better

But there was a major change for the better in the 1970s in a number of different ways. Jumping grew in popularity after the thrilling World Championships at La Baule in 1970 and the size and scale of the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, which will forever be remembered for the devastating terrorist attack, but which were also the largest yet, setting records in all categories with 195 events and 7,134 athletes from 121 National Olympic Committees.

That led to a coming together of journalists and riders alike, and during the FEI World Championships at Hickstead (GBR) in 1974 the International Alliance of Equestrian Journalists was formed.

The riders then decided they wanted the same kind of representative body, and at a meeting in Geneva in 1977 they established the International Jumping Riders Club of which Max was Secretary for a few years.

With the sport clearly moving in a more positive direction, TV broadcasters became increasingly interested in it. “When we were in Aachen or Hickstead we went to dinner together each evening and of course we talked a lot. We discussed the binding together of shows to create more interest, and that’s how the World Cup idea was born,” Max says.

Indoor shows became the main focus, and originally the plan was to create a Formula 1 motor-racing-style series, “in other words one worldwide tour.” However, Bill Steinkraus felt it was too complicated, in part due to the cost and stress of transporting horses all round the world. So the League system, that still remains to this day, was considered.

Presented

In 1978 Max presented the idea to then FEI Secretary General Fritz Widmer who advised him to take it to a Jumping Committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium where the FEI had its headquarters at the time. They liked it and made a favourable report to FEI President, the late Prince Philip, who invited Max to Windsor to discuss it.

“I had already written the rules and he liked it very much and said two things – ‘First, if we do it, then you have to run it!’ and ‘Now I’m going to translate it from American English into proper English!’”

Then there was the question of who should pay for it. Max spoke with Mark McCormack, manager and founder of IMG group which managed top sports figures and celebrities, but they weren’t interested, instead offering to sign up the world’s top riders. When that didn’t materialise, Max turned to an old friend, former Olympic rider Anders Gernandt, who was now a commentator on Swedish TV. And that was the turning point in the story.

“He put me together with the President of Volvo, Pehr Gyllenhammar, who invited me to dinner with a group including his friend Ulf Bergqvist, a Director of a bank and the Director of the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg. They listened to my presentation and I said I’d need 480,000 Swiss Francs which at the time was quite some money! After dinner we sat down and had some Cognac, and Gyllenhammar put out his hand and said, ‘It’s a deal!’ So now I had the agreement of Prince Philip and the President of Volvo and that was sufficient,” Max says.

Concept

So what was it about the concept of the Jumping World Cup that they found so appealing?

“I think it just had to come. I’m not a gambler; I only take calculated risks and I was absolutely sure it would succeed because there were precedents in skiing and football and other sports. And in the meantime, I had talked to many horse shows in New York, Washington, to Gene Mische in Florida, to people in Toronto, Berlin, Dortmund, and Vienna and they were all interested.”

And where did Max get the confidence and skills to put it all together?

“I come from a little village on Lake Constance, and my father had a business so the logical thing when I left Secondary School was to make an apprenticeship in business. So I worked with an international transport company and travelled all around Europe for five years learning the job. Then I worked in shipping companies in Hamburg and Basel, so I had a business education before I switched to journalism in the early 60s. I knew how to make an offer, how to write letters, how to calculate, how to read figures in an annual report, and I spoke English, French, and German and all of that helped,” he explains.

In an obituary after the death of Prince Philip, Max wrote that when HRH was elected FEI President in 1964, words like sponsorship, communications, doping control, marketing and public relations were unknown at the FEI. “It was Prince Philip who brought the FEI forward; he was a visionary but also a very practical man,” he says.

FEI

Max left his job at Luzerner Tagblatt and, with a contract created by the Prince, worked from FEI HQ when it moved from Brussels to Berne. And as the years rolled on, he was involved in the early stages of the creation of the Dressage and Driving World Cups which were based on similar lines.

“The Dressage people became jealous of the Jumpers because they were getting a lot more media attention and there was a lot of discussion about how the Dressage World Cup should be, including some wild ideas. Prince Philip was annoyed by some of the proposals made at a Board meeting, so he told the Dressage Committee to sit with me to sort it out and I told them ‘Gentlemen, I don’t know anything about Dressage or how to develop or promote it, but I can help sell it!’ And a member of the Dressage Committee saved it when suggesting we have a Grand Prix with the best going into the Kur which is the World Cup competition. So through the Grand Prix you preserve the tradition of Dressage and with the Kur you have what people like to see!”

The next discipline that wanted a World Cup was Eventing. “At the Olympics in Seoul in ’88, the Americans wanted it and Roger Haller came to me asking for help to make it happen. Princess Anne was then President and I discussed it with her, but she rightly thought it would be too difficult because Eventing horses don’t compete every week, so nothing came of it,” Max says. However, the FEI Driving World Cup would become a reality.

Seminar

At the FEI Driving World Championships in Hungary in 1989, Max heard the Driving Committee discussing the details of a seminar the following day. “I said to them, what you are talking about is of no importance for the future of the sport; you need to discuss finance, how to create interest, and how to get journalists to cover the sport!”

The following morning, he got a call from Committee President Jack Pemberton asking him to address the seminar, and it went so well he was invited to create an ad hoc Committee of which he would be Chairman. Instead of inviting insiders, however, Max opted to bring in non-specialists including the marketing manager of the Winter Olympics and, after two meetings, they put a proposal to a seminar in Wolfsburg in 2002. Not everyone was initially impressed by the new formula, but a week later the organisers at Aachen expressed an interest and the series began in earnest a year later.

In the lead-in, however, and much to Max’s amusement, a test-run in Gothenburg didn’t meet with everyone’s approval. “I invited all the World Champions of the previous 20 years and they were allowed to train from 11pm to midnight before their event. It was their first experience at a big indoor show, so they drove like maniacs for an hour! Olaf Petersen was course building for the Jumping World Cup and he came racing into my office the following morning and shouted, ‘It looks like a battlefield out there; don’t let those mad Drivers in my arena again!'” Max relates with a laugh.

The FEI Driving World Cup™ survived, however, and went on to become another major success.

Overview

Max’s involvement in equestrianism has given him a great overview. He’s passionate about recording the history of the sport and the two books he wrote for the FEI – “Equestrian Sport in the Olympic Games” and “The History of the FEI Championships” – have become a valued resource.

Looking back on that history, he recalls that not everyone played by the rules down the years. He talks about the Nations Cups staged in Harrisburg, Washington, New York, and Toronto where they ran the classes with just three team-members instead of four, “because they felt four riders with one drop-score was too complicated.” And they broke the rules even further when permitting women onto those teams.

“In the summer of 1950 they had trials for New York and Toronto, and the three riders who qualified were Arthur McCashin, Norma Matthews, and Carol Durant, even though, officially, women were not allowed to compete in Nations Cups at the time – but I think the FEI were half-asleep in Brussels!” Max says with a chuckle.

Talking about his relationship with the three Presidents of his era, he describes Prince Philip as “the best the FEI ever had, an absolute leader and a thinker.” Max learned that HRH didn’t always mean what he said, however.

“He had his specialities when you talked with him. When he said ‘I see,’ he didn’t see at all, so you had to explain more. And when he said ‘I don’t understand,’ you knew he understood perfectly well, but didn’t like what you just said!”

Men’s Club

Max constantly describes the FEI as “a Men’s Club” during those years, and says when Prince Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, took over the Presidential role, she did a great job but had a much tougher time than her father, simply because she was a woman.

HRH the Infanta Doña Pilar de Borbon was also a good President. “She had a less competitive background than Anne, who was an Olympian and a European champion and was from a horse family. But Doña Pilar loved horses and worked very hard at the FEI,” Max says.

Back on the subject of three-rider Nations Cup Jumping teams, Max says he’s a big advocate of the formula which will be used at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. “Because we have to make our sport understood by the ordinary people, not just the specialists,” he says earnestly. “I sat for 30 years in press stands at Aachen and Rome and even there you have to watch and make calculations, and that shouldn’t be necessary.”

Reasoning

“I understand the reasoning of riders and Chefs because of course it’s nice to give young riders their first experience and share the responsibility more. But you could do that by having three riders in Superleague teams and allow the lower developing level teams to have four,” he says.

And what if the three-rider format produces strange results? “Well, that’s sport, and sport doesn’t produce justice; it produces winners!” he insists.

Max retired from the FEI in 2008 but he never sits still. As editor of L’Annee Hippique for 30 years, during which time he also produced “about 30” Media Guides and two books on the World Cup, he has continued writing and recently published an extensive history of the Swiss Equestrian Federation. As an art collector and art lover, he is involved in the work of the Foundation for Naive and Outsider Art in St Gallen, which supports lesser-known artists who are “not in the mainstream.”

Speaking about the philosophy behind his successful career, Max says it was built on engaging everyone in conversations, and on his belief that “you shouldn’t hide and you shouldn’t lie! When you make decisions, you have to stand over them and be prepared to explain why you made them.”

Max Ammann made a lot of good ones, and equestrian sport today owes him a great debt of gratitude.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

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

German Olympian Daniel Deusser Takes Longines World Number One Slot

Photo: Daniel Deusser. (FEI/Dirk Caremans)

Olympic bronze medallist Daniel Deusser (GER) is back in the number one spot in the Longines Rankings for the third time. He takes over at the top with a total of 3,385 points.

Deusser, a member of the German squad that took team bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, was lying second at the end of the previous rankings period just 25 points behind 2012 Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat (SUI), who has held the position since February 2020.

Deusser is no stranger to being world number one. In 2017 he took over pole position from fellow-countryman Christian Ahlmann who had enjoyed a lengthy period at the top and in 2015, Deusser broke the 16-month reign of Scott Brash (GBR).

Based in Belgium, Deusser was part of the silver medal winning team at the Longines FEI European Championships 2019 in Rotterdam (NED), just pipped at the last fence by Belgium. He was also part of the silver medal winning teams at the European Championships in 2013 and 2015.

With his loyal stallion Cornet d’Amour, Deusser won the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Lyon (FRA) in 2014 and finished third in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2016.

As the equestrian calendar starts opening up again, the new rankings reflect some strong points-earning performances, with Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs staying in third position on 3,101, Ben Maher (GBR) up into fourth on 3,008 ahead of Kent Farrington (USA) and Scott Brash (GBR). Sweden’s Peder Fredricson has dropped from fourth to seventh, ahead of Ireland’s Darragh Kenny. McLain Ward (USA) and Marlon Modolo Zanotelli (BRA) make up the top 10 with just three points between them.

The full Longines Rankings list is published here.

Media contact:

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

FEI Tribunal Imposes 10-Year Suspension on US Jumping Athlete

The FEI Tribunal has suspended US Jumping athlete Andrew Kocher for 10 years and disqualified him from eight events between June 2018 and November 2019 for using electric spurs on horses. The athlete has also been fined CHF 10,000 and ordered to pay costs of CHF 7,500.

The FEI Legal Department notified the athlete on 29 June 2020 that an investigation had been opened following allegations about electric spur use reported to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU). It was alleged that Mr Kocher had used electric spurs on a number of FEI registered and national horses in international and national events, and during training.

Following the investigation, the FEI formally opened disciplinary proceedings against Mr Kocher in October 2020. He was provisionally suspended on 28 October 2020 pending a hearing before the FEI Tribunal, and this period will be credited against the full suspension, meaning that the athlete is ineligible through to 27 October 2030.

During the suspension, the athlete is barred from participating in or attending, in any capacity, including as a spectator, any competition or event that is authorised or organised by the FEI or any National Federation.

The sanctions also include disqualification of all results obtained at events for which the FEI Tribunal was provided with photographic evidence establishing the athlete’s use of electric spurs. The eight events are: CSI4* Hickstead (GBR), 21-24 June 2018; CSI3* Lexington (USA), 14-18 May 2019; CSI2* Lexington (USA), 22-26 May 2019); CSI5* Calgary (CAN), 5-9 June 2019; CSI5* Calgary (CAN), 27-39 June 2019; CSI3* Traverse City (USA), 7-11 August 2019; CSI3*-W Columbus (USA), 2-6 October 2019; and CSI4*-W Toronto (CAN), 5-9 November 2019.

These sanctions form the operative part of the FEI Tribunal decision. The full reasoned decision will be published here in due course. Parties can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) within 21 days of receipt of the full decision.

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

CAS Overturns FEI Removal of Villeneuve-Loubet Results on Appeal

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld an appeal against the FEI decision to annul a series of results from events at Villeneuve-Loubet (FRA) between December 2019 and January 2020.

The CAS ruling overturns the decisions of the FEI Secretary General in February 2019 and the FEI Tribunal in June 2020, meaning that all results obtained by the appellants Mathilda Karlsson (SRI) and Andrea Herck (ROM), and other participants in these competitions, are now reinstated.

As a result, the Longines Jumping Rankings are to be recalculated and there are also changes to the individual quotas for this year’s Olympic Games, meaning that Sri Lanka now has an individual place for Tokyo. Hong Kong, which had been allocated an individual slot for Jumping following the removal of the Villeneuve-Loubet results by the FEI, is now the first reserve in Group G for Tokyo. The final list of competing nations at the Tokyo Olympic Games will be confirmed on 5 July 2021.

The FEI’s original decision to annul specific competition results at the French venue was based on findings from an investigation launched by the FEI after concerns were raised about the integrity of these events. The investigation established that a total of 12 competitions counting for Olympic and Longines Rankings had been added after the Definite Entries deadline in contravention of the FEI Rules (Article 110.2.3 of the FEI General Regulations). The changes to the Schedules were submitted to the FEI 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 the additional competitions, requiring a recalculation of the Olympic and Longines Rankings.

An appeal against the FEI decision was dismissed by the FEI Tribunal in June 2020, and the two athletes and the Sri Lankan National Federation then took their appeal to the CAS.

In its ruling, the Panel noted that the “protection of the integrity of FEI’s events and competitions will be much more effective if they may also be cancelled retroactively, because – in many cases – the circumstances giving rise to integrity or ethical issues (such as betting, bribery, or match fixing) will only become known through information that transpires as late as during or after the event.”

The Panel confirmed that Article 112.3 of the FEI General Regulations gives the FEI Secretary General the authority to remove events or competitions even with retroactive effect, providing an “effective instrument” to intervene when the FEI “becomes aware of circumstances jeopardising the integrity of an event without the FEI having had any chance to prevent such circumstances before or during the affected event.” However, the Panel ruled that it was not the purpose of Article 112.3 “to allow the FEI to retroactively rectify mistakes which entirely stem from its own sphere,” referencing the “human error” at the FEI that had resulted in approval of the updated Schedules.

The Panel referred to the two-stage approval process (National Federation and the FEI) which should ensure that “only those schedules are approved which are compliant with the relevant rules and regulations for FEI events.” While acknowledging that there had been a violation of FEI Rules, the Panel declared “the rule violation would never have occurred without the FEI’s erroneous authorisation of the Updated Schedules. The Organiser could not have implemented the updates without permission of both the FFE and FEI.”

The CAS Panel ruled that as the FEI had failed to establish “justified circumstances” for the removal of the competitions, the prerequisites of Article 112.3 were not fulfilled and that, as a consequence, the FEI decision as well as the appealed decision of the FEI Tribunal are unlawful and must be reversed.

“This is a very disappointing result for the FEI, but we respect the decision as we knew that mistakes were made and the CAS decision is based on that,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said. “When we decided to annul the Villeneuve-Loubet results in order to do the right thing from a sports integrity perspective, we knew there was a possibility we could lose this case on appeal, but we agreed it was a risk worth taking.

“However, we have been proactive in addressing the issues and in February 2020 implemented the online invitation system for FEI Jumping events that introduced a quota system for CSI 2* for the first time, but the rules were not in effect at the time of the events in question. In addition, Organisers of CSI2* events that wish to include competitions counting for the Longines Rankings must now invite a minimum of 50 athletes and the FEI is also reviewing the scale of Olympic Ranking points based on the number of participants in competitions.”

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

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