Moving towards the future that awaits us, reflecting on the past year, on what we have gone through.   

Hard times and the problems they pose are always an opportunity for a revival and for forming new alliances in the name of sport

Geneva, December 2019:

Impeccable as always Kent Farrington and his immensely fast Austria 2 were the winners of the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final, while the reigning European Champion Martin Fuchs and his exceptional Clooney 5 further emphasised their excellent season, winning the Grand Prix at the Geneva CHI.

This event marked a wonderful ending to the 2019 season for the Riders Club and for international show jumping in general as it prepared for the next season, well-aware of the extremely important events planned for the coming year.

2020 was to be the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games with qualifying at the top of the list, followed by the names of the riders participating and the number of teams having the right to compete.

The formula chosen for the Tokyo Games has caused a significant amount of serious problems. Issues such as qualifying rules, certificates of competence or rider/horse combinations, accustomed to jumping at a far lower level than that of more developed countries in the equestrian sense, were all debated at length… The subject of Olympic qualifications was central in debates and discussions between the FEI and the IJRC, which as always defended meritocracy and sporting ethics within sports contexts. It was early in February when the FEI at last confirmed the list of countries that had qualified at an individual level for show jumping, eventing and dressage at the Tokyo Olympics. The new formats paved the way for the participation of a far larger number of countries, which increased from 27 to 35 for show jumping, from 25 to 30 for dressage and from 24 to 30 for eventing. The total number of countries that have qualified for Tokyo has increased from 43 to 48. But there is still much to be addressed.

Doping and contamination 

Alongside the Olympic Games, the IJRC’s work has been focused on the thorny subject of contamination, which has created many problems ranging from consequent disqualifications, suspensions and prize money returned, to riders found to be positive for forbidden substances without even being aware of it. The touch of a hand contaminated with a forbidden substance, or a horse accidentally grazing in a field close to plants containing forbidden substances, can result in horses not passing anti-doping tests. The objective to be achieved is that of adapting the rules in order to resolve the specific problems of equestrian sports and simplifying the complex system of regulations, as well as the enormously long list of doping substances that is currently in force. In order to guarantee conformity with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) requirements, the FEI’s Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations (EADCMR) are currently undergoing a total revision. Revised rules for both riders and horses will be in force as of 1st January 2021 in line with the new WADA code.

The consequences of the health emergency

Covid-19 appeared as an explosion that blew all our certainties into a thousand pieces and overturned all priorities, obviously putting the health emergency at the forefront of the world’s attention. The entire sporting calendar was cancelled, the Olympic Games postponed to 2021, the European Championships cancelled until just a month ago when confirmation came that Germany would host the show jumping and dressage European Championships, the first in Riesenbeck at Ludger Beerbaum’s facilities and the second in Hagen. By reshuffling all the cards, Covid-19 has put back on the table all decisions to be made, as well as ongoing changes being implemented. The continuous cancellation of the most important shows resulted in the few being organised having extremely long lists of requests from riders. Too many riders, too few shows. Finding a balance in managing ranking points and implementing the FEI Jumping Invitation System was therefore one of the most urgent issues we had to address. It is a subject that sparked many discussions and differences of opinions and still continues to do so. Even EEF President Theo Ploegmakers expressed, in an official press release, the opinion of the European Equestrian Federation, supporting the importance of meritocracy in our sport and confirming the application of the FEI Jumping Invitation System that is now in force.

Hoping for a return to normality

Marking the end of a really difficult year, there was lastly the cancellation of the Geneva CHI and consequently also the Rolex IJRC Top Ten Final. “…But unfortunately, in a situation as complicated and serious as this pandemic, this is a painful, wise and indispensable decision. The main priority at the moment is health and respect for life. We will work to ensure that in 2021 the Geneva organising committee, together with the IJRC for the Top 10, offers the public an extra special celebration for the 20th anniversary of the IJRC Rolex Top 10,” said IJRC Director, Eleonora Ottaviani.  Our support goes to the organising committee, as well as to all the competitions and to all the riders that have found themselves in this situation this season, in the hope that we will experience a return to normal in 2021,” added IJRC President, Kevin Staut.   

In the New Year we will try to confidently start again, with our eyes firmly on the coming European Championships, with the IJRC providing all possible support to the organising committee, and also on the Tokyo Olympics, the organisation of which still has a long series of obstacles to overcome.

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Looking forward to meeting all together very soon!