Over 280 athletes, Officials, FEI Board Members, and representatives of National Federations and 4* and 5* Organising Committees from no less than 36 nations registered for a three-hour online seminar on Saturday, 20 January with proposed modifications to the competition format for Eventing at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games at the top of the agenda followed by Paris 2024, social licence to operate, Risk Management data, and athlete/horse responsibility/readiness for the different levels, among others.
After a brief introduction and welcome by the FEI Eventing Committee Chair and Board Member David O’Connor (USA), who acted as the seminar’s moderator, the participants were addressed by FEI President Ingmar De Vos via a pre-recorded video.
In his opening speech, President De Vos highlighted the fact that the annual Eventing community meeting served as a platform to discuss key issues in the sport and strategise ways to enhance its safety and appeal to various stakeholders.
The President outlined the seminar’s agenda, which included discussions on recent Risk Management data, emphasising the successful efforts to make the sport safer without compromising its essence. He highlighted a crucial point of discussion was the proposed modifications to the Los Angeles 2028 Eventing Competition Format, which would be presented for the first time, and were the result of discussions between the FEI, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), the host broadcast organisation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The objective was to make Eventing more attractive to fans and new audiences, and increase the media value by capitalising on the Cross Country phase which was a unique draw for the discipline. President De Vos clarified that Eventing’s place on the programme for LA28 was subject to having a single venue for all the equestrian disciplines, something he was very confident about, but that the focus on cost and venue optimisation by the IOC, along with proposed changes to the format were essential for the FEI and the future of Eventing at the Olympic Games.
Finally, President De Vos invited the community to keep an open mind and appreciate the rationale behind the proposed changes, and looked forward to their insightful feedback and watching the seminar in replay!
Following the President’s speech, David O’Connor introduced the proposals for the Eventing Competition format for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games based on a presentation by Yiannis Exarchos, OBS CEO and the Olympic Channel Executive Director.
A proposal by OBS, which is favoured by the FEI Eventing Committee as in line with Olympic principles, sees the team competition run on the short format (Dressage, Jumping, Cross Country) with team medals awarded after the Cross Country while the Individual competition remains on the long format, as per previous Olympic Games, with the Jumping round held the day after the Cross Country to award the Individual medals. This would entail two medal days, with Team Medals awarded on Day Three after the Cross Country followed by Individual Medals on Day Four after the Final Individual Jumping Round.
David O’Connor emphasised the team “short” format Cross Country would be run according to the current distance of 10 mins, and that this format was already in use at many events worldwide and would not bring drastic changes to the spirit of the discipline. It would focus even more attention on the unique attributes of the Cross Country adding greater excitement around the Team medals.
Whereas the seminar was a good opportunity to the start the conversation, the FEI confirmed to the participants that the proposal would be shared with National Federations and related associations for feedback in the coming weeks. With all International Federations required to submit their formats and any proposal of format changes for LA28 to the IOC by 1 March 2024, David O’Connor encouraged participants to ask questions and provide feedback at their earliest convenience as this would be a dynamic process.
It was also confirmed in the “chat” during the session, once the format was finalised and submitted to the IOC, veterinary matters, including horse inspections after Cross Country, would be reviewed in order to ensure optimal horse welfare.
Other items on the agenda
The next item on the agenda was an overview on Eventing preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with a presentation by Pierre Le Goupil (FRA), FEI Paris2024 Cross Country Course Designer, Laurent Bousquet (FRA), Paris2024 Eventing co-manager, and Catrin Norinder, FEI Director, Eventing and Olympic. Further to a question from the audience, it was clarified that the number of tickets for Cross Country at Versailles had been set at 40’000.
The topic of horse welfare and wellbeing, and social license to operate was introduced by David O’Connor. Key Rule changes and recommendations for 2024 and a discussion on future Rule revisions were some of the other items on the agenda.
The second part of the seminar was dedicated to Risk Management and was moderated by David O’Connor and Geoff Sinclair (AUS), Chair of the FEI Risk Management Steering Group. It featured presentations on the highlights and learnings of international statistics on horse and athlete falls and injuries for the period 2013-2023; study research projects, and in particular the EquiRatings® Horse Form Index (HFI); frangible devices; and fitness and training of athletes and horses. All the presentations and information would be published here.
The 2023 statistics highlights showed that the number of competitions had increased since 2019 by 7.25% with an increase of 1.73% in the number of starters. More competitions are being organised at fewer venues. The number of starters had remained stable at Two- and Three-star level, with an increase in One-Star and Four-Star competitions.
The total percentage of falls in relation to starters remained stable at 5.44%.
The percentage of horse falls in relation to starters at Cross Country fences had decreased 16.6% since 2019. Falls on Cross Country was the key focus for the FEI and trends were heading in the right direction. The reporting on the injuries and concussions had improved significantly over the years.
Geoff Sinclair commended the FEI for its transparency and the consistent effort to improve the sport.
Catrin Norinder confirmed that the FEI Technology and Sports Services Department had developed a system allowing the online input of all the risk management data directly by Officials. It would be available by the end of March and would be a faster and more efficient way forward for future data collection and analysis.
An active discussion on the future of course design and changes to encourage accurate and rewarding riding on Cross Country was followed with interesting feedback and ideas shared by the attendees through the chat function. Matters of rider training of horses and ensuring preparation was adequate so that horses presented well at the end of Cross Country were raised in further presentations. The ongoing change of culture in the sport, from military background to presentation of highly well-trained and fit horses as well as athletes prepared for the levels, was a recurring element of the conversation.
David O’Connor thanked the participants for their attendance and the quality of the presentations, which were thought-provoking and were promoting debate and exchange of ideas.
Participants from the following 36 nations attended the online seminar: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Eswatini, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, USA, and Venezuela.
The Online Eventing Seminar was followed-up on Sunday, 21 January with the National Safety Officers Seminar which was restricted to specific stakeholders.
Both Seminar’s agendas and lists of participants are currently available here with relevant documents and annexes to be published shortly, alongside links to watch in replay followed by full reports on both seminars including all the key findings, questions and discussions, in the coming weeks.
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