es It is an unmistakable warning shot. In the run-up to the 2024 Paris Olympics, a working group of members of the French National Assembly has been examining equestrian sports. The focus is on the animal welfare aspects of top-notch sport. A 72-page report makes 46 recommendations for making the Paris 2024 Games the most equine-friendly to date.
The occasion was three incidents in Tokyo 2021 that angered the public: the euthanasia of a Swiss horse flying across the country after an irreparable broken leg sustained during an unfortunate off-road landing. Kilkenny photographed an Irish gray, covered in blood, who had a severe nosebleed during the course and was not stopped by his rider or jury. German quintet Annika Schleu has been widely reported and commented on as she tries in vain to lead her stunned horse over obstacles with the help of a whip.
Due to global discussions, the pentathlon riding will be held for the last time in Paris and will be replaced by a kind of obstacle course without horses. While riding in a pentathlon was not part of the equestrian sport that the FEI represented, for most people a person who rides a horse is considered a rider. Public criticism was not limited to first-class equestrian sports.
The 46 recommendations are very specific. Much is nothing new and, as FEI President Ingmar de Vos emphasizes, it can also be found in FEI regulations for a long time, but not always. And not all the rules are followed and controlled as strictly as required for the welfare of the horse. The report also notes that referees often do not dare to take action, especially with sports celebrities, for fear of reprisals.
The list of torments is long: nose-tied bands, curb chains, hidden spurs
It starts with equipment. You can still see the more adventurous bridle and cut horses and many of the reins on the course. There is no list of blocks and bridles allowed in the FEI Showjumping Regulations. The tight nose band and the chains that obstruct breathing are the daily routine. The report also requires examination of the bridle and cut during training.
The whip should not be used more than twice while warming up, once during the test, but it is preferable not to use it at all. It is also not clear why a jockey would be forced to wear spurs if his horse did not need them. Current dressage regulations require this. According to the French report, the skin flaps of the abdomen, which are supposed to hide pulsating sutures, are also prohibited.
Deals intensely with “hyperflexion”. The adverse effects on the entire musculoskeletal system of a horse when the horse’s head is pulled toward the chest with the bridle, a training method also prohibited by FEI regulations, are accurately described and on a scientific basis. The horse’s forehead line should be either front or vertical. Even in dressage tests of the highest level, you often see other pictures that are rarely punished by a jury.
Particular attention is paid to “mechanical activators”. This refers to parts of equipment intended to increase performance, such as rear gaiters that are particularly tightly tensioned or in which small, marble-sized pressure points are incorporated to increase caution against touching the shaft. It’s like putting a dry pea in a runner’s shoes. Of course, such manipulations are forbidden, but there seems to be no limit to the creativity of some riders.
It is recommended to return to a four-man team – this reduces the pressure of competition
The report also calls for a return to the four-team rule at the Olympics and the riders should be on her side. As is well known, since Tokyo there have only been three passengers per team, so there are no longer any missed results. This rider might be tempted to continue, even if his horse’s welfare is against him, in order to save the team’s score.
The FEI decided last year to invite an outside group of experts to deal with all aspects of animal welfare in the equestrian sport. The result should be presented in 2023. Now the French Parliament has predicted the FEI, the report is in the hall as a guideline for the 2024 Olympics.
It is worth noting that it comes from a high-level working group that has hired many professionals from all sectors of the French and international equestrian scene: veterinarians, scientists, jockeys, representatives of FN, FEI, racing and also the British animal welfare organization “Horse Care”. The idea of competitive sports with horses is not questioned as long as they are properly handled and trained. A matter of course, one might think. “We have to take the report seriously,” says Stefan Ellenbruch, chair of the FEI Showjumping Committee. The warning shot was loud enough. Equestrian sport under supervision.