One of my most dreaded tasks at the start of the year is making sure Leslie, my, and every horse in the barn’s memberships, registrations and passports are up to snuff. Due to the cultural diversity of my little family you can imagine how ridiculously complicated this is. Canada, America and Great Britain, FEI, National Federations, and owners spread around the United States. USEF, USEA, EC, GB, FEI? Does everyone have their alphabet soup paid for for the year and if not who needs what?

It is a nightmare I dive into annually and luckily I have made some good friends along the way at all of the National Federations who try to be very helpful and have made my life at least a bit easier. One of the most difficult chores is the FEI Passport…and this year? It just got a whole lot more interesting.

I had to get four new FEI passports this year: two through Canada (for my horses), one through America (for an American owned horse) and one through England (for a horse owned by Leslie). Now for years, USEF has been polite and friendly enough to help do any passports for Leslie on behalf of GB, a bit of friendly international comradery, if you will, that we have very much appreciated. It sucks enough to UPS for $20 to Kentucky let alone what it would cost to the UK! So I sent the two off to Canada no problemo, then I sent Leslie’s off to USEF for our seven-year-old named Bounce, and Tre Book, a gentleman who owns two of Leslie’s horses, sent off for his seven-year- old Voltaire de Tre to USEF as well.

After a few weeks, I sent an email to the ever lovely Sheila Costello at the USEF to inquire as to the status of the two passport applications at USEF and she was kind enough to get her passport rep to email Tre and I back that yes our passports were being processed, but that Tre had to pay a $1,000 fee for changing his horse’s name. Not long after I received a second email informing me that I too would have to pay said fee for Bounce.

WHA? HOLD THE PHONE. What kind of shenanigans is this? I immediately texted Tre and told him not to pay a thing (well…it might have been ‘an fing thing’) as I was sure someone had lost the plot. In my understanding, in the past, the $1,000 name change fee only applied to horses that already had a previously issued FEI passport. And then began a few uncomfortable days of digging…

First I thought the ‘newish’ gal at USEF had got everything wrong, but seriously no one knew about this rule! Not people in high performance at USEF and certainly no one that I spoke to on a regular basis. No one had a clue. But basically, if you change the horse’s name from its FIRST RECORDED name…BAM…that will be $1,000 please, made payable to the FEI. I feel like surely the FEI should have to take one out to dinner before they do this to you? There is a second portion to this rule as well, but one issue at a time if you will bear with me…

So, here I have the horse Bounce. Leslie and I have had him since the start of his four-year-old year. He came with a name in his little green national book that we did not like so we named him Bounce (which was the stable name he came with anyways) and he was registered with the USEA as that from the time he was four and has never competed under another name anywhere in the world. He also came with a microchip. Now, if we wanted to KEEP his name he has competed under all his life, we had to pony up $1,000 or CHANGE it back to the name he has never been known as. I told Leslie they could pry the $1,000 out of my cold dead hands and our sweet grey horse is now ‘Gliding Class the horse previously known as Bounce’ as far as the USEA folk go. A little like a rock star now is our Bounce.

But you tell me? WHO changed the name? It feels a lot more like the FEI is forcing us to change his name as he has only ever competed under that one name. And seeing as he has had a microchip since he left IRL, I cannot see why it would take $1,000 per horse to ensure that a note is written somewhere that that microchip number was born as Gliding Class, but has competed forever under the name of Bounce? Are you telling me that a note cannot be added in some little box in the horse’s data base of previously recorded name along with the other boxes for sires, breed, sex, etc?

Being the enterprising, or perhaps just cheap, gal that I am, I immediately went to Ireland’s Federation page to find out if I could change his name in the Green book and thus then be able to present to the FEI the same name as found in the Green book. To change the name in the Green book was about $100, which was a lot easier on the stomach than $1,000, so I found an email address to an FEI passport rep and posed that question. The first response I got back basically told me not to bother them and to go through my federation only on such questions. When pressed, I was then told that I would still be charged the $1,000 even if I paid the $100 as a name change was a name change when and wherever I made such a change. CURSES.

Now, I am guessing that the FEI is going to argue that they are doing this to prevent any Dick Dastardlys from trying to do some illegal horse swapping or covering up of horse’s pasts, etc. I say I am guessing, as they won’t reply to my email after their last one. BUT, with the existence of microchips, which every horse we have bought from Europe in the past five years has had, and apparently they are very difficult to take out, surely that can help against fraud? And for every one evil doer out there trying to illegally pass off a horse, surely there are 1,000 of us that don’t want to get stuck with terrible names? But I guess from now on we the masses are paying for the foul play of the few…or more than likely, the FEI has just found a brilliant way to make A WHOLE lot more money.

Think about it! Those Jockey Club names? You better like them, as you are stuck with them unless you want to pay $1,000 down the road when you want a passport! Has it sunk in now? My two first horses Chloe and Snappy would have been A la Bencher and Fiddle’s Lil…the HORROR.

And now for the second part of the rule, which has gotten Europe in a tizzy. Any semblance of a commercial name, prefix, suffix, or initials will incur the $1,000 fee as well. Good GOD I cannot but imagine that state of Carol and Richard right now in Ireland…lol. But, of course, they are the most well known ones, but there are so many others as well as for the past few years the likes of Clayton Fredericks, Marilyn Little, Lucy Wiegersma, and many others have been adding their initials to all of their sales horses. Even Mick Jung has his owners Fisher in many of his horses’ names. Now, while I am sure this $1,000 fee is not going to be problematic for Jung’s owners, it is sure going to be an issue for many that buy from these others because I know if I were to buy one the first thing going from those horses will be the Cooley, Fernhill, FE, RL, or whatever other attachment is added to them. Basically, these guys are going to have to go out there and sell all of their horses with an FEI passport if they want to insure the continuance of their names. Otherwise, you are going to see, I bet, a good half of the names drop out of sight and you will find in the future a good load less Fernhill and Cooley’s on our results sheets.

I bet many of them will offer ‘incentives’ and contracts for keeping the names when you purchase your horse, but, believe you me, the prices will be padded before you step in to allow for that…Those Irish ain’t stupid.

Basically put, the FEI has found a way to make money off of the commercial sellers’ ability to advertise. I had an inkling that this was coming, as last year I sent off via the USEF for a passport on a horse we co-own called ‘Call the Law.’ They warned me then that this could be considered a commercial name as it had ‘Law’ in it and that in future I could be charged. I wrote back to them how utterly ridiculous that was as the co-owners of the horse own a fireworks company and one of the best sellers is called ‘Call the Law’ and it was thus a funny coincidence with our last name and a firework and thus there was no commercial intent at all there and that they had to prove it. Clearly Leslie and I are not the Car Max that Fernhill or Cooley is and the one off horse with Law in its name is hardly a massive business venture for us more of a fun thing to do.

The worst possible scenario, of course, would be what I call the ‘double whammy’…lol. Let’s say you buy a horse whose JC name was ‘Firebird’s Monty’ and let’s just say Firebird was a trainer. Now you trot off excited to get your FEI passport and BAM! You can’t have that name as it has a commercial name attached and you can’t change the name or you have a name change fee. So either way, open your wallet, you are done for $1,000.

Anyhoo… So there you have it folks. At the end of the day our owner Tre spent $1,600 for his passport: $1,000 to change his name, $300 for the passport fee, and another $300 to expedite it as passports seem to take forever these days and the first FEI event is coming up next month. That is a whole lot of money to swallow. The FEI has found a most brilliant way to make what is going to amount to A LOT of cash in the future. I hope they put that cash to good use. I think it is a real shame that we have lost our ability to buy a young horse and give it whatever name we should choose as a competition name if they have never competed before. If it is a real problem out there with people doing illegal things with horse swapping, what a shame that they have ruined that for us all, but I still get stuck at the microchip (and in the case of NA TB’s the lip tattoos) wondering what the point of all that is if we still have to pay $1,000 to ensure things are book kept properly? As far as the taxing of the prefix issue, I can’t help but think that the FEI isn’t just being greedy there. If people want to call their horses Cooley or Fernhill what business is it of anyone else? And who chose $1,000 as the number? And why so high? Surely this could have been a $200 fee and then I wouldn’t be sat here writing about it.