15-Penalty Flag Rule Reform: ERA of NA Seeks Stories/Video of the Rule’s Impact

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

At the 2019 FEI General Assembly, which took place in Moscow, Russia, in November, all proposed eventing rule changes for 2020 were passed including a revision to the FEI’s much debated rule regarding missing a flag on cross country.

The revision to Article 549.2, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2020, is as follows:

  • a) Clear (0 penalties): A horse is considered to have cleared the fence when the head, neck and both shoulders of the horse (to the point of the front of the saddle) pass between the extremities of the element or obstacle as originally flagged and the hindquarters of the horse jump the dimensions of the fence. 
  • b) Missing a flag (15 penalties): A horse is considered to have missed a flag if part of the horse’s head, neck or shoulder (to the point of the front of the saddle) jump outside the extremities of the element or obstacle as originally flagged. The hindquarters must jump the dimensions of the fence.
  • c) Run-Out (20 penalties): A horse is considered to have run out if, having been presented at an element or obstacle on the course, it avoids it in such a way that the head, neck and both shoulders (to the point of the front of the saddle) fail to pass between the extremities of the element or obstacle as originally flagged or the hindquarters have not jumped dimensions of the fence. Continuing on course will incur elimination.

Additionally:

Faults: In the event of an appeal, only official video recording can to be used as evidence.it was in the event of an appeal, only official video recording can to be used as evidence.

In October, the Event Riders Association of North America came out in support of the proposed changes to Article 549.2 following the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International, when the 15 Penalty Rule came into play and had a profound effect on the competition results, as well as prize money and FEI Ranking point allocations. However, ERA of NA noted, “the implementation and transparency of the rule going forward needs to be amended.”

While the ERA of NA believes this update is an improvement on the current rule, we also believe the following points should be considered and implemented.

  •  Assessment and adjudication of Article 549.2 should be handled uniformly at every FEI competition regardless of level or location.
  •  Should there be a question as to whether a horse-and-rider combination has cleared a fence, the issue should be reviewed immediately by the Technical Delegate and/or a member of the Ground Jury as opposed to waiting until the end of the competition day.
  • The Official Video that is reviewed by the Ground Jury should be made public in a timely fashion to aid in transparency and serve as an educational resource for riders, officials and the eventing constituency.
  • Video or photographs other than the Official Video should be allowed to be submitted and reviewed when an appeal is made.
  • At fences where Official Video will be used for review, a clear marker of where the camera will be placed should be present at the time the course officially becomes open. In addition, there should be clear guidelines for officials as to the positioning of cameras to ensure the fair and consistent application of the rule.
  • When setting the flags on a narrow fence or corner, Course Designers could further consider the positioning of flags in a way that increases the likelihood horses are not penalized when a good faith effort has been made to jump the fence correctly.”

On Jan. 10 ERA of NA president Shannon Lilley issued the following memo to members:

The ERA of NA and the Eligible Athletes Group are working in conjunction with Event Owners Task Force to prepare for the FEI Eventing Risk Management Seminar and Forum at Aintree Racecourse, Jan. 24-26, 2020. At this Forum guidelines for the newly revised 15 Penalty Flag rule will be discussed. We would like your stories and/or videos if you were affected by the flag rule last year. The more video footage we have, the better we can make a case for implementing the rule consistently and transparently.

Can you help, EN? Please submit videos to [email protected]

Click here to read the full document of proposed, and now approved, rule changes for 2020. The complete 2020 FEI Eventing Rules can be viewed here.

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