The Belgian Equestrian Federation (KBRSF) wants to stress the importance of "due diligence" from riders who participate in a team selection process for any major Championship, in any discipline. Most recently a lack thereof hindered the smooth selection process for the 2020 FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Dressage Horses.
With both national and FEI selection criteria in play, many riders struggle to have their affairs in order, on time, and lose their place in the selection process by not carefully reading the rules or requesting assistance.
Belgian WCYH Selection
The past few years the selection of horse-and-rider combinations for the World Young Horse Championships has put Belgian riders, owners, trainers, and selectors on edge with the stakes high to participate at this important event. To represent one's country in Championship not only brings personal recognition to the rider, but the achievement has important commercial value as well.
While in 2017 and 2018 the Belgian selection process caused much upheaval amongst team candidates, even ending up in lawsuits, the Belgian NF smoothed out all bumps in the road and held an uncontested, clear selection fin 2019 for the World YH Championships in Ermelo.
This year, however, three out fourteen short-listed combinations after the first selection trial on 14 October 2020 were sent home for presenting a Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) score achieved at an event abroad, for which they no permission to compete at from the KBRSF.
Complaints of lack of support and flexibility from the federation, particularly in this corona year, were publicly expressed and caused unnecessary unrest.
Meeting MER and Guest Permits
Each National Federation can decide on its own team selection criteria for the World Young Horse Championships, but they have to be in accordance with FEI regulations.
The FEI stipulates that the MER score for the 2020 WCYH in Verden "must be obtained minimum once at a CDI-YH or at an appropriate Young Horse competition at a CDN or according to National selection criteria in the calendar year of the Championship." The KBRSF echoed those MER criteria in their WCYH selection rules, highlighting that the MER score has to be achieved at a "national or international show."
In addition, riders who want to obtain their MER at the CDN abroad need to ask special permission from the federation and they will receive a "permit" to be a guest rider in CDN competitions.
The Covid-19 pandemic upended the global competition calendar and the WCYH were postponed from August to 9 - 13 December 2020. In Belgium many national shows were cancelled. However, throughout the spring and summer, there was ample opportunity to show in young horse classes for MER scores. Between June and October 2020 CDN's were hosted in Cheratte, Flemalle, Turnhout, Peer, Sint-Truiden, Diepenbeek, Weelde, Torhout, and Maldegem. Internationally, there was also the CDI-YH Hagen in July, where two Belgian team candidates in fact scored their MER..
Three Belgian riders proved not to be in order with their MER scores as they put forward scores achieved abroad (The Netherlands or Germany) without having the required KBRSF permit.
To avoid disputes and legal repercussions from those who were in accordance with the regulations, the KBRSF cannot allow for leniency in the rules. Both the Belgian federation and the FEI require due diligence from its riders.
The FEI WCYH rules read: "it’s the responsibility of the athlete and owner to ensure that the selection procedure in which they participate offers the possibility to be selected and entered for this Championship."
"We have to be so careful that fair play is guaranteed," Mariette Withages, a senior member of the KBRSF Dressage Committee, told Eurodressage. "We cannot go against our own rules and only allow scores from CDN's abroad with the proper permit. There was plenty of time to achieve MER in Belgium over the summer and autumn, or to have requested the permit. It is the rider's responsibility. If we start making exceptions for late comers, we get complaints from those who played by the rules."
Photos © Astrid Appels
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2020 World Championships for Young Dressage Horses
Belgian Horses Selected for 2020 World Young Horse Championships