The urge for food amongst eventing’s leaders to reopen the flag rule debate has gone from “hell no” to “sure please” after a possible breakthrough in Sweden.
Eventing’s flag guidelines are a spiky topic, regarding the gray space the place a mixture knocks a flag on a cross-country fence. This leads to generally prolonged selections as to whether or not they have been clear (no penalties), ran out (20 penalties), or the horse’s level of shoulder was exterior the extremities of the impediment, however its hindquarters jumped the peak of the stable half (15 penalties).
By its nature, the flag rule often comes into play at slim or nook fences and has had many variations in definition and penalties over time.
Vet and FEI threat administration steering group member Staffan Lidbeck introduced the rule, which has been in place in nationwide competitors in Sweden since 2020, on the FEI eventing threat administration discussion board.
Flags are connected to fences utilizing rubber bands and steel cramps, and the higher attachment may be dislodged. Mr Lidbeck harassed that it’s not essential for flags to be connected in precisely the identical method from fixture to fixture, however the best way fences are flagged should be constant for everybody competing at that occasion.
Combos routinely obtain seven penalties when a flag loses its higher attachment, and 20 penalties for a run-out or when a horse jumps the fence with no a part of his hindquarters going by the flag.
“We have now to make the cross-country extra influential. There are too many clear rounds and it is a protected solution to make the cross-country take a look at extra influential,” he mentioned, including that that is maybe not the ultimate reply, however it’s working in Sweden. “It can additionally improve extra exact and balanced using and thus enhance security. It can make life simpler for officers and in addition for riders.”
He mentioned the Swedish federation selected seven penalties because it means mixtures can have two flags and nonetheless end with a qualifying rating, however not three.
But it surely has not been examined at increased ranges, as all fixtures at three-star (intermediate) and above in Sweden are FEI occasions.
Swedish eventing technical delegate and course-designer Lars Christensson mentioned: “I believe it has made riders respect fences extra, they usually experience extra appropriately. We shall be going the suitable method if we introduce this within the sport.”
Rider Clayton Fredericks mentioned: “I believe sure, there’s a place for this. I might agree that the penalties needs to be low. It’s clear and concise. There’s most likely nonetheless going to be some dialogue if it’s a marginal slide-off. We wish everybody to be aiming for that good experience, we all know nobody ever will get that, however that’s the objective.”
Cleonice Attolico Guglielmi mentioned that as a floor jury member, she “actually likes this rule”.
“I believe it’s going to make riders experience extra precisely. It’s going to make them experience mixtures safely,” she mentioned.
Eventing Riders Affiliation president Bruce Haskell mentioned: “The query we actually should ask earlier than we make any adjustments is what’s incorrect with the present rule and what’s the perceived want to alter?”
He added that everybody desires a sport that makes fast selections – having a debate hours after a rider’s spherical at an Olympics as to whether or not they had penalties or not is “unacceptable” – and any adjustments should be balanced selections.
Course-designer and technical delegate Alec Lochore questioned whether or not there could be a threat it could push riders additional in direction of the broader a part of corners.
Course-designer Mike Etherington-Smith mentioned he personally doesn’t like the concept, however understands the logic and that something that may get outcomes out extra shortly on the finish of the day is essential.
He learn out notes from a dialogue earlier than Christmas with prime riders, coaches and course-designers about this and mentioned: “It’s not going to essentially scale back a few of the discussions that floor juries should have on the finish of the day, about whether or not one thing was a run-out or not.
“It’s not going to be one treatment to repair all these items. However hopefully a few of the discussions shall be taken off the desk.”
FEI eventing committee chairman David O’Connor requested the discussion board if a bunch needs to be put collectively to suggest this rule in close to future, and was met with a robust present of fingers from the room.
“That may be a shift, as a result of 4 years in the past that was ‘no and hell no’,” he mentioned. “There’s a shift in pondering of the path the game goes, and that’s why we’re right here.”
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