The FEI has let us down at Rio

Over the last few weeks, we have seen the top athletes in the World competing in Rio. So many moments to make everyone proud. But watching the showjumping the other day – my favourite event – I was left angry and disappointed. Not by Team GB – they did not have luck on their side but John Whitaker’s first round was pure class and I will most certainly be cheering on Nick Skelton and Ben Maher tomorrow.

But the abuse of horses that was seen and the reaction of the FEI has left me in shock.

FEI, Olympics
FEI have not done enough

Riding is so much about the relationship between horse and rider. Charlotte Dujardin represents the truly wonderful partnership that should make us all strive for better. Jur Vrielling on the other hand is in an abusive relationship and on the world stage, he openly abused his partner but if this wasn’t bad enough, the FEI’s response was to eliminate the pair (after they were totally out of the running anyway) and then allow them to compete again in the Team event. WHY???????

In my opinion this is not even remotely good enough. (To be honest, I am absolutely fuming but trying to remain calm for the sake of my keyboard!) It felt like they were saying – we have eliminated the pair because beating up your partner is not ok but don’t worry we should be able to put some concealer on that black eye and get them back together again for the Team Competition.
If Katherine Grainger started hitting Vicky Thornley would we just stand by and get them back in a boat? If Tom Daley lost his temper and threw Dan Goodfellow in the pool would we just shrug it off?

This is a simple case of abuse, temper and ego –whether at the Olympics or at a tiny village show – this behaviour is simply not acceptable. And for the FEI to do so little is just, quick frankly, disgusting. And the explanation that he was “encouraging” and saying “come on boy, don’t do this again.” Sorry, I’m not buying it. 

horse and hound
Horse and Hound report

In racing, overuse of the whip would mean a jockey being banned from riding for a time – involving loss of income. In football, red cards mean missing matches. Even in Rugby, a pretty rough sport, you are sat out if you over do it!

I am honestly worried for the future of Equestrian sports if this governing body are willing to sit by and do so little when the bad stuff happens. But what worries me more is that if he is willing to get this violent in front of the whole world, what happens in the privacy of his own yard?

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1 comment

  1. I agree that it is silly to disqualify someone just to let them compete the next day. However, I disagree with the FEI doing nothing to improve the welfare in our sports.

    Under the current rules, any blood or marks caused = elimination. This is a good rule to have. However, I felt so sorry for Bertram Allen at Olympia last year where he was disqualified under these rules where I thought his round was beautiful and there was no excessive use of spurs at all!

    Despite being gutted for him, I still think that this rule is really important to the sport. Even if it means good rider’s get eliminated for good riding.

    Although the idea of a similar ban in racing is a good idea, the rules would first have to change as to what the ground jury use to determine when a horse’s welfare has been compromised. As there are a lot of cases of disqualification which do not warrant a ban, it was just pure bad luck. But there are also lots of cases where the rider does not leave a mark but they have behaved in a way to warrant a ban.

    It’s not that the FEI aren’t acting, more that they need to change their rules to act more effectively in my opinion.

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