New rules for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the process for running three riders to a team still seem unclear three weeks before ratification at the FEI General Assembly in Bahrain on November 20, 2018.

Final changes were only circulated in a 42-page consultation document on October 31st, the original having been withdrawn after it was realised USEF’s extensive input was omitted.

Between them, Equestrian Canada and USEF have made multiple comments and criticisms about 40 revised or new Olympic rules – more responses than received from the 130 other national federations combined – highlighting inconsistencies and contradictions. EC and USEF also worry how unforeseen consequences of the three-rider team formats will be resolved, and also timetabling issues – USEF believes the climate in Tokyo could be “brutal.”

The principle of Olympic format change was agreed last year. Now the detail has to be confirmed. In particular there is concern over deadlines for nominations and accreditations. The definition of a “substitute” or “reserve” rider still seems moot, as does their status at horse inspections.

For three to a team to succeed, a combination may be substituted shortly before the start of any discipline if the designated horse fails the first inspection. In eventing, a new combination can be brought in mid-competition to replace his injured or eliminated team-mate, to ensure that his country gets a completion score.

At previous Games, all four-member teams had the option not to travel a fifth horse as reserve to the Olympics. Now that a fourth “reserve” is obligatory to facilitate the new substitutions process, especially if a preferred horse fails the first inspection; USEF wanted to know who was responsible for their additional costs.

Most controversial is the new eventing scoring. Following trials in Strzegom, Poland and Millstreet, Ireland this summer and computerised simulations, the FEI has finalised scoring thus: non-completion of dressage by a team rider – 100 extra penalties; cross-country – 200; jumping – 100. Substitution of rider in any phase – 20 additional penalties.

No substitution is permitted following elimination for dangerous riding or horse abuse. Only one substitution per eventing team is allowed once the competition has begun, and no combination may continue to the next phase – even with the extra penalties – after lameness or a fall. In the event of a tie, the team with fewer substitutions wins.

Only horses completing all three tests qualify for the individual.

Even at the 11thhour, Germany has proposed an alternative, saying Strzegom showed the system was “too difficult” for both public and “eventing insiders” and because “the fourth athlete in [eventing] dressage and jumping has real chances to win a team medal, which is not the fact in eventing.” It has been confirmed the reserve rider of a placed team will receive a medal if he has completed just one phase, even though it is thought unlikely a country handicapped by substitution penalties will reach the podium.

Grand Prix dressage has proved relatively uncontroversial, despite the radical move for riders to qualify for the next round via pre-drawn groups rather than the traditional overall order of merit.

In jumping, confirmation is awaited from IOC as to whether a rider/horse can be substituted up to two hours before the first team jumping competition for “tactical” reasons (the FEI’s preference for jumping though not eventing) rather than veterinary or medical ones.

Any jumping rider eliminated or retiring will receive the score of the worst rider in that round, plus four extra penalties, to provide a completion score for his country.

Another proposal to increase spectator interest is for contenders to warm-up in the main arena, in the event of a team jump-off. USEF has pointed out that while public warm-up worked for the defunct “final four” at WEG, numbers could quickly become unmanageable – at the Falsterbo Nations Cup in Sweden this year, four teams jumped-off.

In another new move, the best jumping team at the 2019 Barcelona Nations Cup final not already qualified will go to Tokyo.

The FEI has also confirmed that the FEI Technical Delegate is responsible for ensuring grooms’ accommodation and amenities meet the required standard, following a request from USEF in the wake of the Tryon debacle.