The voice of truth
The Tokyo Olympic Games brought to light the critical issues of the new Olympic format used for show jumping, which were clear not only to the riders and coaches but also to supporters watching on television. This resulted in many reactions with opinions expressed by both riders and experts. In their interviews with the press, champion riders such as Rodrigo Pessoa, Nick Skelton and Michel Robert, to mention just a few, expressed extremely negative opinions on this subject.
This new format exposed horses and riders to high levels of risk, with the three-riders per team and no dropped score format obliging riders to at times choose between their own horse’s safety and their country’s result. Furthermore, having put the individual event before the team competition, resulted in horses being ridden in both being excessively tested. It seems to be a format that does not take into account the principle on which equestrian sports are based: the horses’ welfare.
The 3-rider format allowed the FEI and the IOC to achieve their objective of opening the Games to a larger number of nations, with 34 teams competing in Tokyo compered to London and Rio’s 27, but the price was paid by the horses who do not decide on the rules or the format but are always in the end those who decide the outcome. Amidst changes and regulations, financial and sporting interests, horses speak the voice of truth.
It is therefore hoped that the Olympic format will be revised so as to achieve the correct balance between equine welfare and the needs of Olympic sport. All this does not mean that we did not see the highest level of sport in all three disciplines, dressage, eventing and show jumping. The excellence of the horse and rider combinations that won medals confirmed that welfare, fitness and horsemanship are the only way to the podium.