German dressage rider and Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl posted the following on social media on Sept. 15th following an attempt to return to competition within the FEI’s six-month maternity leave period following the birth of her daughter Ella in August:

“I was looking forward to my comeback after the baby break in Ludwigsburg, but my participation was not approved. The FEI denied me a permission to start – because of its perception of the regulations on Maternity Leave.

During my pregnancy I had applied for Maternity Leave with the FEI, meaning that for the period of my maternity leave, 50 percent of my ranking points remain. According to the FEI, I am not allowed to start tournaments during this period either.

I have consulted with the FN and we do not share the FEI’s point of view. Our interpretation of the regulation is that if female athletes apply for maternity leave, the FEI must grant at least six months. But it is not a rule that an athlete MUST take six months breaks. So the female athletes should be allowed to end their maternity leave earlier. With the month they first restart, receiving the existing points from the previous payment period ends.

I know the rules and would have assumed losing the relevant ranking points with a start in Ludwigsburg. Not even allowed to start now, I find it simply unfair and cannot understand the decision given the wording of the FEI regulation. It says: ‘if the maternity/medical leave lasts less than six (6) months, no points will be retained from the corresponding month of the preceding year.’

This has led to the assumption that by deliberately waiving the calculation of the world ranking points, I can also start again.

Since before the tournament a decision by the FEI tribunal would not be foreseen, I have agreed with the FN and we waive to go to the FEI Tribunal and fight for a start there. So I unfortunately have to withdraw my participation (also nationally) and am very sad not to be allowed to get my horses to the start.

I hope for the future (for my colleagues) that the rules will be adjusted.”

On Sept. 16th, the FEI issued a statement in response:

The FEI has been made aware of the social media posts published by Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (GER) on Thursday, regarding her return to competition from maternity leave.

While we fully understand her desire to compete, Ms von Bredow-Werndl clearly expressed her decision to avail of the maternity leave provisions set out in Article 2.2 of the FEI Dressage World Ranking List Rules in April 2022 and it was explained to Ms von Bredow-Werndl at the time that the minimum period of the maternity leave would be six months.

The FEI also informed the German Equestrian Federation at the time that, further to Ms von Bredow-Werndl’s decision, a note had been added to her profile confirming that she would not be competing during the six month period of her maternity leave.

Once an Athlete has chosen to apply for medical/maternity leave under Article 2.2 of the FEI Dressage World Ranking List Rules, and has benefited from the provision allowing for the retention of 50% of the ranking points from the corresponding six months of the previous year, it is not possible for the Athlete to subsequently change their mind.

The procedures currently in place for Athletes applying for medical/maternity leave are to protect the fairness and integrity of the sport. Any recalculation of the Dressage Rankings could have a significant impact on other Athletes.

The FEI will undertake a review of the medical/maternity leave Rules for the future, and will liaise with the riders’ clubs (IJRC, IDRC) and the wider equestrian stakeholder groups.