ERA of NA on Flag Penalty Rule: ‘Specific Ground Rules and Guidelines Needed’

Fence 11A – Rolex Grand Slam Challenge – at Kentucky, where Will Coleman and Tight Lines were assessed 15 penalties for missing a flag. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The Event Riders Association of North America (ERA of NA) released a statement this afternoon suggesting that “more discussion on the interpretation of the 15 Penalty Flag Rule among all FEI officials, organizers and competitors is required.”

The new FEI rule, Art. 549.2, altered the definition of what is considered a runout and changed the penalties for missing a flag to 15. A run-out, missing a flag and clear jumping effort are now defined as follows:

a) Run-Out: A Horse is considered to have run out (20 penalties) if, having been presented at an element or obstacle on the course, it avoids it in such a way that the body of the Horse (head, neck, shoulders and pelvis – legs are not included) fail to pass between the extremities of the element or obstacle as originally flagged. Continuing on course without representing will incur elimination.

b) Missing a flag: A Horse is considered to have missed a flag (15 penalties) if the Horse jumps the dimension of the obstacle and the majority of the Horse’s body (as defined above) passes through the flags. This means that some part of the body is not inside the flags (e.g. one shoulder, or one shoulder and part of one hip).

c) The Horse will have successfully negotiated the fence, if the body of the Horse (as defined above) has passed the fence as originally flagged (i.e. the body but not all the legs are inside the flag is considered clear).”

The FEI Eventing Committee released a clarification on how the rule is meant to be interpreted ahead of the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, and “agreed that the following considerations must be taken into account when judging the run-out/flag situation on Cross Country:

  1. The Fence Judge is responsible for taking a decision as to a penalty to be awarded to the combination
  2. Knocking down a flag will not entail an automatic penalty
  3. The Ground Jury will only review any specific requests for clarification made by a Fence Judge or an Athlete after the penalty has been awarded
  4. Video reviews should be done immediately by the TD and/or GJ if there is a doubt, not left until after the XC so scores can be published and updated during competition
  5. When reviewing a video, it must be easy to decide if the horse is inside the flags, if it is necessary to review several times, the decision should be made in favour of the rider.
  6. As always if there is a doubt give the benefit of the doubt to the competitor.
  7. 15 penalties on Cross Country will maintain the MER on Cross Country


A meeting to further clarify the rule for officials and riders was held prior to cross country at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, which ERA of NA said “has bettered the interpretation of this rule, yet as a Rider’s Organization, letting our voices be further heard is a priority to ensuring the fair and consistent management of our sport on all fronts.”

Click here to read the full statement, which emphasizes “the mission and responsibility of the ERA of NA is to identify challenges within the sport and to advocate for the best solutions on behalf of all competitors. As such, we recommend the establishment of specific ground rules and guidelines so that all FEI officials are able to consistently and dependably interpret and implement this new rule.

“As an organization, we stand ready to participate and collaborate in the development of these standards. The USEF, USEA, British Eventing, other National Governing Bodies and ERA (International, UK, and NA) must work with the FEI to establish a standardized, uniform policy whereupon competitors, owners and spectators need not question the consistency of its application.

“Additionally, in order to ensure the most effective use of  this rule, the Ground Jury must be completely transparent in its interpretation. For educational purposes, the timely access to all deciding factors in determining the assessment of 15 penalties is paramount, thereby ensuring all competitors are fully aware of the grounds on which this rule is applied.”

What do you think, EN? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

[ERA of NA Statement Regarding FEI 2019 Eventing Rule Article 549.2 – Run Out – Missing a Flag]