At EC and FEI competitions, do horses need to wear numbers when they are not in the competition arena?

As you can imagine, when we act as stewards at competitions for many years, we get to know the competitors very well. However, when we arrive at a competition for the first time, it is quite a different story. Numbers are the only reference officials have to identify the horse and rider. Identification is needed in many scenarios, from the worst – an injured horse or rider – to the best – wanting to congratulate a competitor for something well done. Just as important, if abuse is witnessed by an official, or someone other than an official, the number might be the only way to report the issue for follow-up.

Both EC and FEI are clear on this rule!

  • EC Article A814 — every entry must be provided an identification number by the organizing committee which must be visible at all times in the schooling and/or exercise area as well as in the competition ring.

FEI Article 114 GR – Horse Identification

  •  The OC shall give an identification number to each of the participating horses.
  • The identification number must be worn during the whole Event at all times while the horse is out of the Event stables.

Are grooms ever allowed to sleep in the FEI stabling area?

In our updated FEI Steward Manual for Jumping, the rule states that “accommodation for grooms, duly registered with the OC as a groom, who wish to remain with their horses during the night, may possibly be permitted to do so.” This permission may only be granted under exceptional circumstances; e.g. an ill horse. Although this is the quoted rule, in fact I believe any ill horse would be removed to isolation or a hospital monitored facility.

Up until about five years ago it was common for grooms to remain in the barns with their horses. However, it is not common in North America at this time. In our large events, we now see much more closed-circuit TV in use. With barns monitored by live security and by security cameras, horses are safely protected and have a quiet, restful situation for the night.

Is someone other than the rider allowed to handle the horse at the horse inspection jog?

In all three disciplines (jumping, dressage and eventing) the written rule states that the Person Responsible (the rider) should present the horse unless prior permission is granted by the Inspection Panel. This permission is requested through the chief steward. Traditionally, grooms often present jumpers, but dressage and eventing are presented by the Person Responsible. By the letter of the law, permission must be asked!

Horses at recognized shows should always wear their numbers when they are out of their stalls. In general, no matter what level of show or event, it is a good idea for quicker identification in case of a loose horse, accident, etc.

Jan Stephens of Oakbank, MB, is an FEI and EC steward, and Jump Canada’s 2014 Official of the Year, with a long career that includes officiating at Pan American Games, World Equestrian Games, and the Olympics. She has worked hard to dispel the perception that stewards are merely the “tack and helmet police.” They are present to help competitors and ensure that horses are fairly and respectfully treated. Send your questions for Jan to