The FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez and barrister Mhairi Alexander are the latest voices in the debate raging over disqualification of the Irish rider at Olympia Horse Show
BERTRAM Allen’s disqualification after the Grand Prix at Olympia remains at the epicentre of a debate raging about the interpretation and implementation of FEI rules on equine welfare.
FEISecretary General Sabrina Ibáñez and Mhairi Alexander, the barrister who lodged an appeal with Quiet Easy’s owner Emma Phillips, are the latest voices to air their opinions.
Ibáñez has come out in full support of FEI officials at the top British show, while Alexander has insisted that the Ground Jury erred in their interpretation and application of the rule.
Ibáñez voiced her full support for the actions ofFEI Officials at London Olympia on Monday night (December 21st) when Irish rider Bertram Allen was disqualified after blood was found on the flank of his horse, Quiet Easy.
"I have absolutely no doubt that the protocols regarding blood on the horse were followed correctly at London Olympia on Monday night", Sabrina Ibáñez said.
"Of course this incident has created a considerable amount of discussion on social media because Bertram Allen would otherwise have won the Grand Prix, so there is a high level of sympathy for him, but theFEIOfficials were in Olympia - as they are at every event run underFEIRules - to ensure a fair and level playing field and that the welfare of the horse is protected.
"Blood was found on the flank of Bertram Allen's horse and, underFEIJumping Rules, that results in mandatory disqualification. The situation was reported to the Ground Jury by the FEISteward who had conducted the normal post-competition check on the horse and Bertram Allen was then informed of his disqualification in person by the President of the Ground Jury and the Foreign Judge.
"Let me be clear, disqualification under this ruledoes not imply that there was any intent to injure the horse, but it is crucial that the rules are enforced in order to ensure that horse welfare [NBSPCE]is protected.
"It is very easy for any sports official to be criticised when they are simply doing their job. Everything at Olympia was handled correctly and in accordance with the rules, but there is no doubt that it was an unfortunate end to a wonderful event."
FEIJumping Rules Article 242.3.1
3.1 Horses bleeding on the flank(s), in the mouth or nose or marks indicating excessive use of spurs or of the whip anywhere on the Horse (in minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a Horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, Officials may authorize the rinsing or wiping of the mouth and allow the Athlete to continue; any further evidence of blood in the mouth will result in Disqualification.)
However Mhairi Alexander has highlighted several areas of concern to her in the interpretation and implementation of the rule.
Writing on her Facebook page, she wrote: “Having read the vast amount commentary that has been written about Bertram Allen and Quiet Easy over the last few days, I thought it might be interesting to offer some of my own comments and observations with regard to the way in which the appeal was handled according to the FEI rules.
Mr Allen and Mrs Phillips (the appellants), position can be summarised briefly as follows: they argued that the rule demands that the blood or marks are indicative of excessive spur use. The mere presence of blood and or a mark alone is not enough to result in disqualification. There was nothing to indicate that there was excessive spur use (two experts provided statements to that effect which were lodged along with the appeal). The Ground Jury had therefore erred in their interpretation and application of the rule.
Hurdle number 1:
The first issue that riders should be aware of is that there is only 30 minutes from the start of the prize giving ceremony (not, as I would have imagined, the time at which the decision is conveyed to the rider) in which to mark the appeal. Clearly, anyone not familiar with the FEI rules is at a disadvantage, and being unaware of this rule in particular would leave a potential appellant time barred from being able to challenge the original decision at all.
Notwithstanding that, 30 minutes in my view is an extremely short period of time in which to read the rule, consider whether it has been applied correctly, collect the form from the relevant office, gather all of the relevant FEI numbers together with the appropriate fee for doing so, and thereafter lodge the form with the relevant office, along with any supporting evidence.
Hurdle number 2:
An appeal committee is then convened approximately 1 hour later in order for parties to make submissions. Most curiously, parties make submissions in private, in consequence of which, while I addressed the panel for around 40 minutes, I had to do so without the benefit of having specifically heard what the Ground Jury’s position actually was.
Perhaps one might argue that their position was obvious, however in the normal course of a debate the appellant would have the benefit of knowing the respondent’s detailed position in order to tailor the argument and ensure that their position was crystal clear. To that extent, the appellants were somewhat in the dark.
Hurdle number 3:
Finally, it is worth noting that the committee categorically declined to provide any explanation for the basis upon which they reached their decision. I urged them to do so in the interests of transparency, but yet they still declined. Further, they were unable to provide us with any information regarding further appeal procedure; they didn’t know.
Clearly, this makes it extremely difficult to take the process much further. It can be done, however again, the appellants are fighting an uphill battle.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the rule as it stands. It is clearly designed to protect against abusive riding and that should be applauded. However, I do not think that it has been applied with that purpose in mind. It should therefore be redrafted to provide clarity, or the FEI should issue formal guidance as to how it wishes the rule to be interpreted. Rules are not just rules.
In the meantime, I would simply offer my congratulations to Mike and Emma Phillips, Bertram Allen and of course, Quiet Easy, all of whom conducted themselves impeccably.
Photo Credit: Stefano Grasso/LGCT)