Written by: Jan Stephens

Show steward Jan Stephens discusses the International Jumping Riders Club’s attempts to pressure the FEI into modifying the blood rule in show jumping.

Thumbnail for Ask the Steward: Blood Rule & Illegal Boot Rules

The International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) has pressured the FEI to change the blood rule so that disqualification only applies when there is evidence of “excessive use” of spurs. FEI Rule 242.3 in Jumping Regs states Mandatory Disqualification if:

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.)

I want to put the case forward that the portion of the rule regarding bleeding on the flanks caused by spurs should absolutely be maintained, no matter what pressure is brought to bear by athletes. Officials know that no rider goes into the ring trying to cut his horse. We all concur that many cases of blood on the flanks is caused in error, not in temper. However, a horse does not deserve to be cut either intentionally or by mistake.

Indeed, if excessive use of spurs is not in doubt, then the penalty should be greater. It should include, for instance, a yellow card or fine – or both – as well as the initial mandatory disqualification caused by the presence of blood on the flanks.

The rule is very clear as it stands: when a horse is cut by spurs and blood is drawn, there is mandatory disqualification. There is no grey area. Nothing is open for interpretation. Imagine the number of scenarios that would be generated by different interpretations if the rule was changed. My fellow steward Enrique Rey points out:

  • officials would be far more likely to be criticized for “interpretation” and what appears excessive to one might not be excessive to the other; and
  • when disqualification did occur, objections would be extremely strong, as they would be when disqualification did not occur.

Changing the rule would be a lose-lose situation, especially for the horse. This is one that should absolutely not be changed.

Do illegal boot rules from FEI apply to EC?

This question is often asked by Equestrian Canada competitors. The answer is a simple ‘yes.’ The boot rules and guidelines are predicated on welfare, safety, and to prevent abuse.

It is important to note that there are two types of commonly-used boots that are totally illegal:

  • The Equick boots that have the pressure strap on the back of the tendon are not legal until the purple insert is properly placed under the Velcro strap.
  • All boots that separate the lining from the boot and have spots for placing material between them are not legal when pressure is applied between the lining and boots by adding something foreign.

The last boot issue applies to the Young Horse Competitions. The teeth in these rules are simply for the protection of young horses; they say all hind leg protection must have a maximum interior width of 16 centimeters and the width of the fastener must be at least five centimeters. The inside of the protection must be smooth and only non-elastic Velcro type fasteners are permitted: no hooks, straps, buckles, clips, or other methods of attaching the fasteners may be used.

All these rules are based on welfare and are adopted from FEI rules. It is worth mentioning and noting that USEF uses somewhat different rules, so be careful when competing in the US. You can access the USEF Young Horse Boots on the USEF website.