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IJRC General Assembly: “The time has come to take action!”

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By Jean Llewellyn / press release

The statement was unanimous: “We can no longer remain silent; the time has come to take action!” Although our focus is typically on breeding-specific content, the recent International Jumping Riders’ Club General Assembly once again focused on horse welfare, given the recent announcement that the three-rider format will be retained for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

This decision was ratified at the recent FEI hybrid General Assembly, but has since raised a number of ethical and moral questions. Yes, the vote was a democratic ‘one-nation-one-vote’ system, but suffice to say that 70% of the voting countries have never qualified a horse/rider combination to compete at the Olympic level, nor is this likely a possibility at any time in the near future.
Unanimously reconfirmed as president of the IJRC, Kevin Staut’s opening remarks at their own General Assembly, held December 10 during the CHIO Geneva, highlighted Club’s constant commitment as well as the results achieved over the years, with a strong desire to cooperate with the FEI and the institutions in order to increasingly elevate our sport through a unity of intentions.
Taken directly from the IJRC published report... After reporting on all the activities undertaken over the past year and addressing subjects that are currently of great importance, such as qualifications for riding in CSI5* Grand Prix classes and new rules concerning the use of hind boots, the assembly addressed the issue that currently has our sport in checkmate: The qualifying rules and format approved for the Olympic Games.
A few days ago it had been announced that the IJRC would express its opinion regarding the qualifying rules and the three-rider team format for the Olympics following the [General] Assembly held in Geneva, and that has been the case.
A clear, specific and carefully considered position, assumed by the majority of riders following the decisions taken by the FEI General Assembly held in Antwerp, has now been made official. It is a position firmly supported in no uncertain terms by the riders present in Geneva who spoke practically unanimously. Those who addressed this subject were the IJRC’s president Kevin Staut, Steve Guerdat, Rodrigo Pessoa, François Mathy, Laura Kraut, Max Kuhner, Pedro Veniss – representing the riders on the FEI Jumping Committee, Daniel Bluman, Swiss chef d’équipe Michel Sorg and – linked by video – Irish Showjumping Manager Michael Blake and Ludger Beerbaum.
Beerbaum’s words were particularly moving when he addressed the importance and real meaning of our sport and finished by saying that, “We must now take action otherwise we are just wasting time.”
Vice president of the EEF (European Equestrian Federation), George Dimaras spoke at length, drawing attention to the fact that of all the national federations, few have in-depth knowledge of the problems being addressed and, therefore, he emphasised the importance of informing them as far as all the implications are concerned and instructing them adequately so that they really do become capable of expressing an objective opinion. Establishing a dialogue with all the federations is necessary for the good of our sport, added François Mathy.
The young British rider Jodie Hall McAteer, a member of this year’s Young Riders Academy, made extremely relevant observations in underlining the importance of taking into account the next generation, since it will be they who will continue to deal with the choices made now and therefore also be subjected to them.
The questions and doubts expressed, as well as criticisms made, were answered by the director of the FEI Jumping Committee Marco Fuste, who underlined that the Olympic Games are not held under the aegis of the FEI but of the IOC and that if one wants equestrian sports to continue to be among the Olympic sports, then one must comply with the needs of the IOC, in primis, increasing the number of nations participating in the Games. This remains the condition for remaining in the Olympic Games, conditions to which the FEI adheres.
Fuste also underlined that no changes will be made to the European Championships, World Championships and Nations Cups, a statement Rodrigo Pessoa objected to, asking what the point was of keeping teams consisting of four horses and riders, to then ride in the Olympics with teams of three.
The debate was moderated by IJRC director Eleonora Ottaviani, who also emphasised that of the 70 [FEI] federations that voted in favour of teams consisting of three horse-and-rider combinations, very few had taken part in the Tokyo Olympics.
The debate was long, with many exchanges of opinions, and to summarise matters: What emerged is that our sport is unique and it is made so by horses. HORSES must remain the absolute priority and as such must be respected and protected. This is the motivation around which everything must come together. That is the reason on which everything must be based. Sending horses and riders to compete over a course they are incapable of jumping is not sport; it goes against sport... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber

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