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New Olympic Rules

jumping big cross country fence

I’ve just been having a read of the changes to be made to Equestrian sports at the Tokyo (and probably future) Olympics and it was definitely worth a post! Now before I start, I will admit to really struggling to get my head round the system for Dressage and Show Jumping before the Olympics and all this knowledge has now left my brain. So you can read the full article about all the proposed changes here. (As I will only be talking about a few!)

There are two pretty big changes coming to Equestrian Sports at the Olympics and these are my thoughts on them.

Teams of 3

The first of which is that there will no longer be a drop score in teams… so now there will only be 3 in a team with all their scores counting plus a reserve.

The idea behind this was to allow more countries to be able to enter the equestrian disciplines at the Olympics as each country will only be allowed 3 riders plus a reserve. For each equestrian discipline, there are usually about 6 countries with teams of 4 plus their reserve. This new rule means that there will be 6 more spots open to riders from other countries.

No More Elimination for Team Riders

The other biggest change (for me personally) is the change to the eventing. “For team classification, any combination not completing a phase can progress to the next if accepted as fit to continue.” Now I understand this as if you jump out the arena in dressage (meaning elimination) or have too many refusals or a fall out cross country (elimination) you can continue onto the next phase as long as the horse is health and carry a penalty.

I think this is a huge change! Especially when the penalties for not finishing are relatively low (100 for Dressage/Show Jumping and 150 for Cross Country.) Compare this to the current 1000 penalty points for a team member to retire/be eliminated it’s crazy, but not necessarily a bad thing.

With the new rule of only 3 riders competing on a team, a rider elimination (1000 penalties) will surely (if not always) mean that team cannot win and would be extremely lucky to place. Whereas this new system will allow unlucky teams to still have a reasonable chance. Especially when you consider that a rider can easily pick up 60+ penalties across country.

There are also a few welfare points to make about this new rule. The first is obvious and comes down to the vets’ examination and trot ups. This change to the rules may require a trot up and veterinary examination after every phase of the sport, or at the very minimum, a thorough examination after a horse failed to complete a phase and the rider wishes to continue. This is because there is a risk that riders might try to push the horse onto the next phase after a fall whereas usually this would mean elimination and the horse would likely have the rest of the weekend off.

These changes are likely to change how the riders ride, especially in the cross country phase. There are two ways they could change their riding, likely depending on the horse and the rider. The first could be that they ride more aggressively and take more risks, because if the risk doesn’t pay off (the horse refuses, falls, misses the jump) they can still in theory continue onto the next phase.

However, on the other hand, because ‘eliminated’ riders can continue with relatively few penalties, riders might be more careful and really focus on not getting any mistakes throughout the course, but maybe pick up a few more time faults.


I think both of these rules are a good thing in the long run, but I am really interested to see how they play out and how they may change the sport in the long run.

What do you think about these new rules?

Last Updated on 07/08/2018

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