The FEI Solidarity Tree, a commemorative sculpture to mark a landmark step in the growth of the FEI’s global sport development programme, FEI Solidarity, was unveiled at the organisation’s headquarters in the Olympic capital Lausanne (SUI).
The stainless steel artwork, created by Irish artist Ian Calder, displays the names of FEI Solidarity donors on laser-cut leaves alongside horses and riders depicting the Federation’s seven equestrian disciplines. The FEI Solidarity Tree is situated immediately outside the FEI’s headquarters, the HM King Hussein I Building.
FEI Solidarity, launched in 2011 and inspired by the Olympic Solidarity model, is focused on providing opportunities for the next generation of athletes and all those working in equestrian communities around the world, so that local structures can be established to develop the sport.
The FEI Solidarity Tree was unveiled by two members of the FEI Solidarity Committee – Elisabeth Max-Theurer (AUT), President of the Austrian National Federation, and Gloria de Cuesta, President of the Ecuadorian National Federation – as part of a special ceremony attended by Olivier Niamkey, the Olympic Solidarity Head of Athletes Section.
They were joined by FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos and members of the FEI Solidarity Committee, which is composed of representatives from each of the FEI’s nine Geographical Groups.
“FEI Solidarity is about creating a more equal equestrian community, and developing exciting new projects that will grow the sport universally”, said FEI President HRH Princess Haya, who chairs the FEI Solidarity Committee.
“Many people around the world are now benefiting from much needed support from our global sports development programme and, by coming together to support more equestrian communities, we will safeguard the future of equestrian sport and create champions well into the future. It is really wonderful to have the FEI Solidarity Tree, so that we can publically acknowledge and thank our generous donors who are supporting this important project.”
The FEI Solidarity programme has so far supported over 35 projects with funds as well as technical and consultancy services. These include athlete training programmes, educating coaches and supporting FEI National Federations in countries where international equestrian sport is emerging, so that the necessary processes are in place for continued growth.
A number of social projects are also benefiting from FEI Solidarity, including horse-assisted therapy for seriously disadvantaged teenagers in South Africa, sports classes for multiple sclerosis sufferers in Sardinia and training of farriers, saddlers and harness makers in Cambodia with international charity World Horse Welfare.
FEI Solidarity is also supporting a worldwide programme to improve the international movement of competition horses with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
“Olympic Solidarity, which organises assistance for National Olympic Committees around the world, has been the inspiration and model for our equestrian sports development programme FEI Solidarity, and we are very grateful to the IOC for their guidance”, explained Ingmar De Vos, FEI Secretary General.
“The success of FEI Solidarity, which was launched just two years ago, is testament to the fact that there is a real desire to support the growth of our sport worldwide.
“There is true solidarity in our sport, and we are looking forward to supporting many more projects with our National Federations for years to come.”
FEI Solidarity Ambassadors
In April this year, the FEI announced eight FEI Solidarity Ambassadors, who have formed a unique partnership to promote and develop the global equestrian disciplines governed by the FEI and raise awareness of the FEI Solidarity programme.
They are Charlotte Dujardin OBE, British double Olympic Dressage gold medallist; Laurentia Tan, Singapore’s top medal winning Paralympian; Ingrid Klimke, German Olympic Eventing gold medallist; Jessica Springsteen, the 22-year-old American Jumping star; Maria Alvarez Ponton, the Spanish athlete who in 2010 became the first rider to hold concurrent World and European Endurance titles; Tomas Eriksson, Sweden’s three-time winner of the FEI Top Driver Award; Lior Raz, the Israeli who has been competing in Reining since the age of 14; and Bongani Mvumvu, the South African Vaulter who also won the FEI World Dressage Challenge Final for Children in Hagen (GER) in 2003.