The blood rule is part of a package of horse welfare that needs to be brought back into context, so I am pleased to see the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) has been making recommendations to the FEI.
When you have a high-profile incident such as Bertram Allen’s — when he was disqualified for a spur mark after winning the Olympia grand prix in 2015 — it quickly brings the situation to the fore.
Bertram was the perfect example of the rule gone wrong, as it was clear that he doesn’t abuse the horse. The officials were applying the letter of the law — that the presence of blood equated to automatic disqualification — but it brought home the need to be able to apply common sense.
It wasn’t an isolated incident: William Funnell and Guy Williams also fell foul of the rule within the next year.
No one disagrees that a rider using sharp spurs to kick or gouge a horse should be banned but a small mark where skin has accidentally been broken is not abuse and shouldn’t be treated as such. I haven’t seen any rider intentionally hurt a horse with spurs.
For me, the correct procedure would be one in which yellow or red cards are brought into play instead of automatic disqualification.
The IJRC is keen that officials be allowed to use their discretion and there is good mutual respect between them and the FEI, so I think the FEI will take on board the IJRC’s concerns about the severity of the rule.
What riders want is clarity on the issue, and a consistent ruling. It will be the FEI’s task to ensure it can be implemented consistently.
If rules like this aren’t challenged, horse welfare can be pushed to the point at which it becomes ridiculous. For example, in Sweden all forms of support aids are banned at competition, including ice boots and massage machines. We don’t want to go down that road.