How the FEI’s Frangible Rule Played Out at Rolex + Other Notes

It took more than two hours for officials at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event to release the final scores after a dramatic day of cross country in Lexington. We can’t help but wonder if that had something to do with the FEI’s new frangible penalty rule, which in its most current form automatically awards 11 penalties when a frangible pin is broken but gives the ground jury the power to lift them.

That means each incident of a frangible pin breaking must be reviewed to determine if “unexpected activation occurred through a light tap.” Interestingly, one does not need to review Frangible Francis Whittington demolishing the big corner at the Land Rover Hollow to determine that it did not exactly come crashing down due to a “light tap.”


So you’d expect to see 11 penalties awarded under this FEI rule for completely dismantling the fence, right? Wrong. Rolex officials confirmed to EN that because that particular jump was not on the “official list of frangible fences,” the ground jury could not legally award him those penalties.

That has to sting a little for Will Faudree (who has since withdrawn), Allie Sacksen and Ellen Doughty-Hume, who all received 11 jump penalties for breaking a frangible pin despite the fact that the course builders didn’t need to send in the jack for them.


This is all made even more interesting by the fact that Francis actually was initially awarded 11 penalties on the live scores, along with the aforementioned riders, but those penalties were removed before official scores were released — presumably after officials found and reviewed the Official List of Frangible Fences and realized their hands were tied. Sorry to Will, Allie and Ellen — you picked the wrong fence.

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With Rolex being the first major event of the year during which this new frangible penalty rule has been in place, it will be interesting to see how the rule evolves given what happened on course today. If riders can dismantle certain fences but not others in order to receive the 11 penalties — and final scores take more than two hours to be finalized at major competitions — we likely need to go back to the drawing board.

(Update: Lillian Heard and Share Option were originally awarded 11 frangible penalties on the official signed scores released after cross country. Those penalties were removed some time after that, and the journalists were informed the next morning that “one change had been made to the official scores.” More fuel for the fire that this rule needs to be re-thought — and quickly.) 

Other XC Day Notes

  • Boyd Martin finished clear aboard both Master Frisky and Crackerjack, moving up an average of 13 places.
  • Buck Davidson finished clear on two out of his three horses, moving up an average of 18 places aboard Petite Flower. Ballynoe Castle RM retired early on course.
  • Colleen Rutledge finished aboard both Shiraz and Covert Rights, moving up an average of 15 places.
  • James Alliston experienced the highs and lows of cross country, getting eliminated with a fall on Tivoli, but moving up 42 places with Parker.
  • Michael Jung added just 0.4 penalties on his two rides. He moved from equal first and fourth to second and third.
  • Nicola Wilson slipped an average of 2.5 places with Annie Clover and Watermill Vision, with whom she picked up 20 jumping faults.
  • Phillip Dutton finished all three of his starts without jumping penalties, moving up an average of seven places.
  • Werner Geven sadly did not complete with either of his rides.
  • 31 of 51 (61%) of U.S. cross country starting pairs completed Derek Di Grazia’s cross country course. 13 of 20 (65%) non-U.S. starting pairs completed.
  • With a 62 percent overall completion rate this year, Derek di Grazia’s course rode more challenging than in 2014, where 70 percent of starters crossed the finish line.
  • The Head of the Lake caused the most issues (10). The keyhole/corner Mounds at 16ab caused the second most issues (9), although you can’t judge difficulty just based on that, as The Mounds might have caused more issues if more pairs made it through the Head of the Lake!
  • Lady riders dominated the starting stats at Rolex, representing 49 of the 75 Rolex starters and 14 of the 15 Rolex rookies.
  • 26 of the 45 horses ridden by ladies completed the course, and 20 of the 26 ridden by men completed.
  • Completing ladies added an average of 33 penalties to their dressage scores, and completing men added an average of 11 penalties. These stats are obviously heavily influenced by the top of the leaderboard, where the top nine spots are occupied by men, and by the fact that 14 of the 15 rookies starting the event are ladies.
  • U.S. pairs who completed added an average of 29 penalties to their dressage scores. Non-U.S. pairs added an average of 10 penalties.   

Click here to see the full fence report from #RK3DE. You can relive all the action in John’s open threads (Part 1, Part 2) and read the afternoon cross country report here. Tim Price and Wesko lead, The Terminator sits in second and third, Boyd Martin is our highest placed American, and Elisa Wallace is the highest placed Rolex Rookie.

Stay tuned for much more from the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Go Eventing.

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