Reining may yet win a reprieve from the FEI. Delegates at the FEI General Assembly (GA) in Moscow next month (November 16-19) were expecting to remove reining from the FEI family, but it has emerged the FEI is in active talks with the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) to find a new way of working together, with the “final position” not yet known.
Many European national federations (NFs) – though none from reining’s spiritual home, north America – strongly objected to the axing of reining as a FEI discipline when the FEI board recommended it earlier this year. The NFs said the FEI had worked for a long time to keep endurance in the fold, yet seemed to be dismissing reining within a year of the disputes between the FEI and the independent American reining bodies becoming widely known.
The Belgian federation said: “The FEI is the world governing body of the equestrian sport and its purpose is to unite and not to reject a part of the community. So instead of removing a discipline, FEI should keep looking for solutions to be able to keep reining inside the FEI. The FEI cannot put enough energy into saving the discipline of reining. The low number of actual reiners participating at FEI events cannot be a reason to stop trying.”
Just 297 reiners – mostly European – were registered with the FEI last year, compared with the NRHA’s worldwide competitor base of 14,818.
FEI reining committee chairman Sven Friesecke said: “The situation is difficult particularly for the European reining athletes as they have a very positive perception of the FEI, and many countries apply the standards set by the FEI regarding animal welfare and anti-doping at their national and NRHA shows. De facto, it is the Europeans who organise and feed most of the FEI events.
“Moreover, in Europe a very big interest has developed for the participation of young and junior riders. Interest and first steps in the discipline has also been shown from other countries around the world, eg. Thailand and Bahrain.”
FEI statutes require it to be the sole world authority for the equestrian sports it embraces. Reining was governed by the NRHA and American Quarter Horse Association decades before the FEI adopted the sport 18 years ago, so the three parties signed an unprecedented co-operation agreement.
But in recent years there have been significant differences of opinion about stewarding, anti-doping policy and the minimum age that horses can compete. The FEI terminated the agreement in November last year, also citing the NRHA’s “money driven” approach.