Frangibles, the Flag Rule & a Farewell to Top Hats: Your Guide to 2020 FEI Eventing Rule Revisions

Everyone looks so thrilled to be here. Photo by FEI/Liz Gregg.

Does the idea of a 34-page marked-up FEI rules memo make your eyes cross just thinking about it? That’s why we pay our chinchillas the big bucks. Our hard-working yet soft-to-the-touch team has outlined the most notable revisions to the FEI Eventing Rulebook for 2020 below.

All proposed eventing rule changes for 2020 were approved by the FEI General Assembly, which concluded on Tuesday in Moscow, Russia. The rule changes will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 unless otherwise noted.

Click here to read the full document of proposed, and now approved, rule changes for 2020. The complete 2020 FEI Eventing Rules, a 105-page tome that is perfect for light bedtime reading (i.e. guaranteed to put you to sleep), can be viewed here.


  • For 4* Championships and higher level events, if the score for a flying change varies by 3 points or more between the judges, the Ground Jury will review the official video as soon as possible after the test.
  • The collective mark for “Overall Impression” will replaced by “Harmony” and weighted with a double coefficient.

Cross Country

  • Flag Rule: A revised version of the FEI’s much debated rule regarding missing a flag on cross country was adopted. The new rule 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.
  • Faults: In the event of an appeal, only official video recording can to be used as evidence.
  • Frangible Devices
    • A rider will incur 11 penalties for activating a frangible device only when the dimension of the fence is modified.
    • Frangible devices will be required on the following fence types at 4*, 5* and Championship events in 2020: open oxers, verticals or near verticals with open rails, and top rail on triple bars and gates.
  • Fence Design
    • Spread fences must not have an upright or vertical leading edge. The top of the front of the fence must be rounded or sloped. All other fences, including gates and fences using square and/or sawn materials, must not have any sharp or square edges.
    • A fence should not be less than two strides before a step out of water or three strides after a drop in water. Water to water with a drop is not allowed.


  • Horse:
    • Double bridles may only be used in four-star and five-star competitions.
    • Wavy bits will be added in the permitted snaffles for dressage and “smooth” will be removed.
    • Bitless bridles may not be used cross country.
    • Any gadget which does not allow an immediate and unrestricted separation of the rider in case of a fall is forbidden (such as magnetic stirrups and reins with hand loops).
  • Rider:
    • Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, helmets will be required for all FEI disciplines at all times while mounted. View General Regulations.


  • The path for “A” categorized riders to participate in a CCI5*-L aboard a horse that has five-star experience with another rider has been fast-tracked. They may now qualify for a CCI5*-L with 2 CCI4*-S MERs as a combination instead of a CCI4*-L MER as a combination.
  • A minimum age of 12 years old for riders and 5 years old for horses will be required for CCI1* competition.


  • Recorded Warnings/Yellow Cards: Several rules reflect an effort to separate and redefine Recorded Warnings from Yellow Card sanction. Recorded Warnings are eventing specific, while Yellow Cards apply for the same offenses across disciplines. An individual who receives three or more recorded warnings within 24 months, or two yellow cards in one year, will be suspended for two months. An updated list of actions and their sanctions can be viewed in Article No. 527.
  • Dangerous Riding: “Pressing a tired horse” is now a Dangerous Riding offense. All cases of Dangerous Riding will incur an Recorded Warning, and may also be sanctioned by 25 penalties or elimination.
  • Abuse of Horse: Overriding, which may not induce visible marks, is now an Abuse of Horse offence. All Abuse of Horse offences will incur a Yellow Card, and may also be sanctioned by a fine, elimination or disqualification. All cases of riding an exhausted horse will incur a Yellow Card and disqualification.

Team Competition/Championships

  • Whereas a Championship host country was previously allowed a greater number of riders, they are now limited to the same number of riders as the maximum number permitted for the foreign countries.
  • For an event to be recognized as a FEI Championship, a minimum of nine and a maximum of 90 dressage starters is required.
  • In FEI Eventing Nations Cup competition, teams will start in reverse order at the end of the cross country and jumping tests to help to differentiate the individual competition from the team competition.


  • The previous age limit of 70 for officials and judges has been removed.
  • All officials and judges must complete a yearly online competency-based evaluation test.

Indoor Eventing

  • In the interest of safety, the indoor eventing competition format will be judged as follows:
    • Optimum time: if competition runs over fixed obstacles
    • Against the clock: ONLY with knockable fences or hedges
    • Two phases: 1st phase — fixed obstacles possible, Table A format not against the clock; 2nd phase — knockable fences, Table A against the clock

View notes from the 2019 FEI General Assembly here. A replay video of the General Assembly may be viewed here.

Talk amongst yourselves, EN. Go Eventing.