Circling Back: Olympics

Since I was quick to criticize modern pentathlon and their mess that went down at the Olympics, it’s probably only fair to circle back to it and discuss their response.

UIPM - Event Partners | International Sports Convention

They did at least sort of acknowledge an issue and come out with some proposed changes, some of which are good, some of which are meh, and all of which are yet to prove whether or not they’ll actually happen and/or help. The original statement was kind of an interesting one and had me rolling my eyes in a couple places, like these:

“The unpredictability of athletes riding on unfamiliar drawn horses, with only 20 minutes to establish an understanding, is part of the dramatic spectacle that makes Modern Pentathlon unique and compelling.”

I mean, you got the “dramatic spectacle” part right. None of us can deny that it was indeed unique and compelling, it all the worst possible ways.

“While the number of refusals and falls on August 6 was slightly above average, the Olympic Games is designed as the most challenging of all competitions. “

Nothing says THIS WASN’T A ONE-OFF, WE’RE ALWAYS A MASSIVE FUCKING SHITSHOW like constant refusals and falls being considered “slightly above average”.

“The experience of Annika Schleu (GER) and Gulnaz Gubaydullina (ROC) on Saint Boy was unusual in high-level Modern Pentathlon, especially for riders of their proven ability.”

I mean… waaaaas it unusual though, because there were a lot of rides that went just like that

I think we can all agree that UIPM should hire a PR team at the very least. Oy vey. ANYWAY, moving on to the proposed rule changes that UIPM released.

  • UIPM will compose a Riding Working Group to comprehensively review the Tokyo 2020 competition and consider ways to prevent issues arising in future
  • The Riding Working Group will also assess the need for amendments to the UIPM Code of Ethics for the welfare of horses, and will draft amendments if applicable
  • UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann will meet with Mr Ingmar de Vos, President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), following of his offer to provide expertise and insights on horse welfare
  • UIPM will draft a set of modifications to the Riding section of the UIPM Competition Rules designed to suit the new Modern Pentathlon format, which will be introduced in 2022 with fewer jumps and lower, simpler obstacles
  • Recommendations from all of the above will be collated and presented to the UIPM Executive Board (EB) during its next meeting in Monaco on November 24-25, 2021
  • The EB will then agree on relevant motions to be presented to UIPM 2021 Congress, taking place online on November 26-28, 2021
  • UIPM will provide a new set of guidelines and online educational tools for horse welfare tailored to athletes and coaches
  • UIPM will adjust the content of courses within the Coaches Certification Programme (CCP) and Judges Certification Programme (JCP) to add more emphasis on animal welfare via dedicated modules
  • Training and case study materials will be provided to all UIPM Technical Delegates to better equip them to handle specific situations and scenarios in competitions starting in 2022.

So really most of it is just talking about stuff and providing more/better education, aside from the “draft a set of modifications to the Riding section of the UIPM Competition Rules which will be introduced in 2022 with fewer jumps and lower, simpler obstacles” part. That’s an actionable item at least, and one I can get behind, although I’d like to know how much lower and simpler they’re planning on going. I went through several pages and links about the new format but couldn’t find specifics on jump height/courses before I got bored, maybe someone more dedicated out there can find it. But I’m also glad they’re at least accepting to meet with the FEI. It’s… kind of a start, maybe? Not a particularly great or comforting one, admittedly. I will reserve full judgement until I see what they actually roll out. Hopefully we get some kind of positive change at least, albeit definitely not as much as a lot of us were hoping for. Actions speak louder than words, so… time will tell. I think we can all agree that no one wants another shitshow like this Olympics at least.

Hey! I had a question about Annika schleu and saint boy (horse) of the  modern pentathlon: olympics
let’s never do this again, yes?

The other interesting thing to come out of the Olympics is the criticism of the new showjumping format. Rodrigo Pessoa and Nick Skelton (among several others that I’ve seen) have been pretty outspoken about it, and I have to say that for the most part I agree. Those Swedish horses had to jump way too many rounds IMO, and the fact that they were able to pull that off on horses that had already done so much in such a short period was miraculous – those horses shouldn’t have ever been in that position though. And not having a drop score doesn’t do anything good for anyone (I absolutely hated it for the eventing as well – nothing about it is in the best interest of horse welfare, IMO) – Nick pointed out Shane Sweetnam’s debacle as being a glaring example of that, and I agree. Again we’ll see if any changes actually come of it, or if equestrian sports will remain at the mercy of the IOC. It’s the big reason why I don’t love having equestrian sports in the Olympics in the first place… the good of the sport and the horses rarely seem to take priority.


5 thoughts on “Circling Back: Olympics

  1. I read somewhere that they were proposing making the riding portion two rounds, the first at 1 meter, and then the second on 1.10. The second round would be like a jump off, so riders would only get through if they were clear the first time around. Still seems high for the level of riding I saw… But at least better than 1.2m I guess?
    Also agree, I hate the no drop score. I had the same thoughts about how many rounds those horses jumped in not many days. We don’t do that to them generally. Most gp horses are jumping once, maybe twice a week at shows if they do the welcome and the big class. I LOVE the concept of the Olympics, and that equestrian sports are a part of it, but I do not like the current format at all. Actually, there are a lot of things I don’t like about the Olympics right now.


  2. I swear, “it’s tradition!” has to be the laziest excuse and it makes me so mad. The cynical part of me thinks that they might try to lay low and see if the outrage passes, only to have it happen again in 2024.

    Glad the show jumpers are speaking out. That format just seemed grueling for no real reason, hopefully they won’t do it again.


  3. I have been arguing that if the horse industry does not address issues of social license themselves they will be forced to do so by people who have no idea about and even less sympathy for them. Thanks to this mess, PETA has now decided that equestrian sports should be eliminated from the Olympics. I dont agree with their pplaform or their tactics but they do make things unpleasant for those they have targeted. I would have prefered that wasn’t what to takes to improve things, but now I can only think so be it.


  4. While I felt that the lack of a drop score didn’t necessarily cause trouble in the dressage, it definitely created carnage in showjumping and eventing. I have a bone to pick with the highest levels of eventing in general when it comes to safety (don’t we all?), but honestly this was the first time I started to really question welfare in the comparatively safer sport of upper-level showjumping (we won’t get into the absolute disaster that is bottom-level showjumping, and I say this as someone who coaches it). As much as, yes, riders NEED to put horse welfare over winning… there will always be riders that don’t. And if the jumping disciplines are incapable of running a horse-friendly Olympics, then yeah, maybe they shouldn’t be there at all – as sad as that would be, because I love the Olympics too.


  5. The first thing that came to my mind when I read the ‘let’s talk to the FEI’ part was: ‘Holy ****! They didn’t talk to them until now???’ It should be absolutely fundamental to involve the FEI in an Olympic sport that features horse riding. And the level of cooperation (and the willingness to learn!) should go much further than the two presidents meeting and chatting away. The same is true for National Equestrian Federations as well. Germany’s Equestrian Federation and the German Modern Pentathlon Federation are literally neighbours…


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