IJRC General Assembly. A unanimous statement: “We can no longer remain silent; the time has come to take action.”

A unanimous statement: “We can no longer remain silent; the time has come to take action.”

IJRC General Assembly, Geneva, December 10th, 2021

The IJRC General Assembly was held this morning at 9.30 am.

In his opening remarks, Kevin Staut, unanimously reconfirmed as president of the IJRC, highlighted the 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.

Peder Fredricson resigned from the Board of Directors while Pedro Veniss and Emilio Bicocchi were elected. In addition to the Club’s director Eleonora Ottaviani, Steve Guerdat, François Mathy, Henrick von Eckermann, Rodrigo Pessoa, Max Kuhner and Ludger Beerbaum were confirmed as members of the Board of Directors, with the addition of a representative of the NARG (North American Riders Group).

After reporting on all the activities undertaken over the past year and addressed subjects that are currently of great importance, such as qualifications for riding in CSI5*Grands Prix 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 regards to the qualifying rules and the 3-rider team format for the Olympics following the 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 Show Jumping 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 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 4 horses and riders to then ride in the Olympics with teams of 3.   

The debate was moderated by IJRC director Eleonora Ottaviani, who also emphasised that of the 70 federations that voted in favour of teams consisted of 3 horse and rider combinations, very few had taken part in the Tokyo Olympics.

The debate was a long one 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.     

The words spoken by Rodrigo Pessoa summarise the opinions of the riders who are now making themselves heard. For the moment we have remained silent and very well-mannered, said Rodrigo, adding that the time has come to speak out and ensure people listen; what happened in Tokyo was there for all to see, he added, and also addressed the journalists present inviting them to make the riders’ opinions known.

The assembly ended at midday with an interesting presentation by Jean Maurice Bonneau who showed how show jumping has evolved over the past twenty years comparing courses built at the time and nowadays, emphasising how today’s courses are far more suited to the needs of horses.

Bonneau finished by saying that nowadays the emphasis on the wellbeing and protection of animals is far greater and therefore attracts attention to equestrian sports that are often criticised. Such a conclusion invited everyone to reflect on this and inevitably returned attention to the key point around which everything turns, THE HORSE.

The closing words spoken by Eleonora Ottaviani expressed the hope that a shared path would be followed to protect the values of our sport and its main athletes, the horses.



Image: Eleonora Ottaviani (IJRC Director), Kevin Staut (IJRC President)