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Rules are rules, or are they just a discussion point?

This weekend I was keeping an eye on Pau 4* and at the 3* at Fairhill in the USA. This weekend in the USA we see another horse with a bloody mouth not even pulled up on cross country, let alone eliminated and yet if this horse had been doing a dressage test or Show jumping at FEI then they would have been eliminated.

MMBHT Jock&CliftonLush ©Katie Neat Photography-2

Jock has been stopped for blood.

How can one International Federation which covers all three of those sports be so divisive in what it sets out as a rule? Surely blood is blood?

I read the statement from member of the Ground Jury Christian Landolt who is a very experienced member of the Ground Jury and it struck me that actually the excuses being trotted out were lousy excuses.

  1. ‘There was nothing running or gushing……’
  2. ‘With a minute to go it was easier to let her finish……’
  3. ‘At the finish we found nothing………’
  4. ‘Clearly the mare bit her tongue………’
  5. ‘It’s just a smooth pelham with no joints, nothing to cut her……’

At Burghley a few years ago we saw Jock Paget pulled up and another rider who was mistaken for having the blood issue and neither rider complained as they understood the reasoning and that the welfare of the horse should be at the heart of every decision made. It might very well have interrupted their rounds but ultimately it was a good decision.

The decision not to pull a horse with obvious blood (in all the photos) in its mouth at Fairhill was a poor decision in my books. This is the 3rd time this rider has not been pulled up now for the same reasons and I just wonder if they had been in Europe if the same decision would have been made? The excuse of being a minute from home is a rubbish excuse.

There needs to be parity across the rules for blood in all the sports. In my books its dangerous ground to go eliminating some riders for one thing and not others. Why is it acceptable to have blood in eventing but not in dressage? Often the reasons the blood has happened are the same – a bitten tongue. For me, it does not make a good picture and along with rider and horse deaths, eventing will find itself skirting towards even thinner ground.

My final thought on rules is the acceptability of how often horses can run at the top levels. We have all been there and had a crap outing where a quick run would be beneficial to the horse, but we are possibly talking about Intermediate level and below. Not at CCI3* and CCI4*. I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with the quick rerouting of horses who have underperformed and then get put back out at 3 or 4* level within a week or two. If you look at the horses who rerouted from Burghley to Blenheim the results are perhaps telling. There was a horse running at Pau 4* who had run in a CCI3* just 2 weeks ago. Is this an acceptable timeframe and what if something had happened to this horse? Its too late to stop negative press after the event has happened.

In the Autumn season this seems to happen a fair amount with the large amount of choice available to riders on where they can run.  It is maybe time the FEI looked at this especially as it appears to be a European issue rather than a world issue where 3* and 4* events are at a premium and don’t run so close to each other. Ultimately riders need to make responsible choices for the benefit of the whole sport and International Federations need to be fair in how they apply rules.

About the author


An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.