The Jumping Owners Club has released an open letter written to FEI President Ingmar De Vos detailing their frustrations with the new format changes to the Olympic Games and the World Equestrian Games. The letter is signed by the JOC’s president, Christian Baillet.
The club, which is the official voice of world class horse owners to the FEI, stated they were “surprised and disappointed to see that neither the riders nor the owners could be heard” on the subject of major format changes at the sport’s largest events.
“We expressed on various occasions, and notably during your presentation at the Jumping Owners Club General Assembly in Barcelona, that the new Olympic Games format proposed by the FEI, now approved by the National Federations, was not satisfactorily taking into consideration the welfare of our horses.”
The decision to shrink teams from four to three and eliminate the “drop score” in the Olympics has been praised by the IOC but universally panned by riders, owners and existing fans of the sport. Many have questioned whether it puts undue pressure on the horses to continue on in competition when they would otherwise retire should something go wrong.
The letter goes on to address the changes to the WEG format, stating while they generally approve of the decisions to eliminate the speed class and the rotation of horses in the final, they were shocked not to be included or consulted before the rule changes were revealed.
“The fact that the decision about the new WEG format was made without prior consultation with the riders or owners reinforces our concerns and tends to reflect a lack of consideration for the primary partakers of equestrian sports.”
The letter does not suggest a boycott or a change of plans or action, merely asking that the FEI hear more voices going forward and be mindful of equine welfare.