JER: Fun with FEI Yellow Cards

When a reader emailed me a link to JER’s post about FEI yellow cards on the COTH forums, the FEI’s decisions described therein struck me with that mixture of amusement and horror that our sport creates so often.  As many of you know, JER is an EN and forum regular, and I have been begging asking JER to write something for Eventing Nation for a while now.  Upon my request, JER was kind enough to modify her observations on the recent FEI yellow card list for Eventing Nation’s reading pleasure.  Thanks for writing this instant ‘Best of EN’ JER and thank you for reading.
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From JER:

Among the many obfuscated treasures of the FEI website is the List of Riders having received a Yellow (Warning) Card. This is the police blotter of international eventing, a compendium of crimes ranging from the serious – ‘abuse of horse’ – to the snickering – ‘smoking in stables after repeated warnings.’

We all love a good police blotter. Especially when it involves our friends and neighbors.

If we look past the expected smatterings of ‘dangerous riding’, ‘continued after 3 refusals’, ‘jumped obstacle after elimination’, there are some real doozies on this list, proof positive that there are some truly fascinating people out there eventing at the FEI level. Like the aforementioned badass chick caught smoking (several times!) in the stables like a seventh-grader. Or the Italian rider who was ultimately red-carded and suspended for continuing on after three refusals twice. In one month.

But the list’s standout offender is the Norwegian rider who was given two verbal warnings (but no yellow card) at the same event. The first was for not showing up for the jog and not giving permission for someone else to jog the horse. It’s unclear how the horse was presented to the ground jury (presumably it showed up and jogged itself) but never mind, this story only gets better. The second warning was for – brace yourself – ‘allowing a child to ride in the D box without a helmet.’ 

‘Allowing a child to ride in the D box without a helmet.’  How many errors of judgment and rule breaks can you squeeze into one short sentence? Is there a prize for this? Perhaps, because the rider placed fourth in the competition.

Next, consider the enigmatic case of a Dutch rider who was given a yellow for ‘not stopping after several refusals on XC.’ One would hope the official had a specific number of refusals in mind rather than a ballpark figure and one wonders if the punishment would have been more severe for ‘many’ refusals. There’s also the dadaist conundrum of how it is that a rider can ‘not stop’ after ‘several stops’ but this is just another way in which eventers accomplish the impossible.

Some incidents appear to be the result of cultural gaps between rider and officials. This would explain why two riders at an event in Mexico were booked for ‘dangerous riding / out of XC course on the rocks.’ To most of us, that sounds like a typical weekend south of the border but the official apparently thought otherwise.

If you’re looking for tips on how to avoid getting yellow-carded, here’s one piece of advice: if your horse is out of control and you can’t avoid going through or over the ropes, make sure you do it twice so you’ll only get a verbal warning like German rider Frank Ostholt or a 25-point penalty like Portuguese rider Guimairaes Joao. Irish rider Brian Curran failed to heed this advice and jumped the rope only once for a full-on yellow card. 

Come to think of it, this is no small feat, jumping your out of control horse over a line of rope twice.  Which means that if you could do it a third time, you would probably incur no penalty at all.  But you didn’t hear that from me.

To see the full list, go to the FEI Warning Card page and scroll down to ‘Eventing.’ The list opens as a .xlsx spreadsheet. The FEI Warning Card system explained (pdf).

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