As the clocks tick over to herald a new year on January 1 it will mark the start of a new era for international eventing – one which has a stronger focus on horse welfare, introduces a new category system, and shows less tolerance to bad or inappropriate behaviour from riders.

The rule changes were approved by the FEI General Assembly in November with those proposed getting the green light however, many feel some open the door for rather wide interpretation and ripe for subjective opinions.

The structure of competitions will change with CCI competition now known as CCI-L long format and CICs to become CCI-S short format. The degree of difficulty is still a progressive star system but goes through to 5* instead of 4* although the shorter version goes only to 4* level. Current CCI4* events will become CCI-L 5* . Dimensions for cross country at World Championships and Olympic Games falls roughly between (new) CCI-L 3* and 4* regulations.

Rules around the use of the whip and blood on horses has had a big shake-up. And will come under far more scrutiny from ground juries. In the situation of blood on horses, not all will lead to elimination, with some reviewed on a case by case basis.

There are stronger guidelines around the warning card, recorded warnings and penalty system, including blood on a horse caused by the athlete and excessive use of the whip. Gear has also come under the spotlight with changes and rules around bits, bridles, hackamores, ear hoods and neck straps.

Gone is the controversial 50 point penalty for jumping outside the flag and included is 15 penalties for missing a flag where only official video recording will be used as evidence. A review committee will assess existing (new) 5* level events annually with the possibility of its star level being re-evaluated. With the (new) 5* events recognized as the pinnacle of eventing there will continue to be just a handful of them across the globe. Currently Adelaide is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. The minimum level of prize money must be €125,000 for 2020 and 2021, and €150,000 by 2022.

Changes to ESNZ eventing national rules in relation to class levels and alignment with the FEI rules are currently being finalized with an announcement due to be made this month.

The FEI changes come alongside those made to the format for eventing at the Olympic Games which see teams reduced to three, the allowance of substitutions for vet or medical reasons mid-way through competition, shorter dressage tests and other minor tweaks.
A substitution can only be made in the event of an accident or illness of an athlete and/or horse and on the presentation of the appropriate medical/vet certificate and with the permission of the chief medical officer and/or veterinary commission. That can happen up to two hours before the first horse inspection.

The system does not allow for any tactical substitutions to boost the team for a coming test.
Only one substitution is allowed per team and will come with it a 20 point penalty, however, if a horse is not accepted at the first horse inspection, there will be no penalty for a substitution. For the team competition there will also be a 100 point penalty for the non-start or completion of either the dressage or jumping, and 200 penalty points in the cross country.

Only countries with a qualified team are allowed to bring a substitution combination with them to Tokyo.

While approved by the FEI General Assembly, all of the changes also have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee.

Next year New Zealand plans to run the Oceania clash in a similar format to the new Olympic format, albeit as it will be alongside a CCI3* it may need a few adjustments as well.

Click here for the Marked Up 2019 FEI Eventing rules

By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison