The FEI Blood Rule
Today I am (finally) going to discuss the FEI Blood Rule. First, I will paste the rule here so that it is easy to find and reference:
FEI Show Jumping Rules Article 242 3 - Mandatory Disqualification .1 - "Horses bleeding on the flank(s), in the mouth or nose or marks indicating excessive use of spurs or of the whip anywhere on the Horse...will result in disqualification".
The only exception is for a horse that has bitten his tongue - no other exceptions are made. As it reads right now, there are actually TWO ways to be disqualified. The first, is that the horse is bleeding from the flank, mouth or nose. The second, is that there are marks indicating excessive use of the spurs or whip. Often, people do not read carefully and believe that the excessive use clause also applies to bleeding. This is not the case, as excessive use of the spur or whip could not produce bleeding in the mouth, they are to be considered separate circumstances.
Recently, this rule has come under fire by those in show jumping following the disqualification of Bertram Allen after his would-have-been win at Olympia. Bertram's horse exited the arena with a mark from the spur that was bleeding, and was subsequently disqualified by the stewards.
People were quick to jump to Bertram's defense seeing as it was most likely only an accident (you can see in the course where he was unseated over a fence), but I am not so fast to judge.
First, it is important to consider the purpose of the rule. As it stands, the rule serves to punish, and punish severely, misuse of equipment in the show jumping arena. This misuse CAN be accidental, but it is misuse all the same. If exceptions were made for every time a rider said "oh it was an accident", that would open up the system to those who only wish to exploit it.
It is also key to consider the history of the rule. The rule has been applied inconsistently, which is part of the outraged response. Some horses have exited with clear misuse of equipment and no one has said anything. Enforcing the rule in EVERY circumstance would help make it more visible to the public eye and accepted by equine society, as well as shaping how and when equipment itself is used (i.e. Less presence of sharp spurs, see-sawing on sharp bits, etc).
Many will say that, even then, mishaps happen. After all, we ride 1100lb animals with minds of their own. Discussion of a warning system was even brought up, so that those riders who made a mistake would not be severely penalized. In response, I will defer to Steffen Peters, following his blood rule disqualification at the Reem Acra World Cup Finals in dressage. “It is clearly my fault," Peters said. "At the end of the day, I rode the horse, and I am responsible for the welfare of this horse. I am very embarrassed about it. I’m the one who feels guilty." The horse owes us nothing. If we as a rider, even mistakenly, cause injury in pursuit of a title, I believe that title should not be awarded. It is the rider's responsibility to maintain control of their aids and equipment AT ALL TIMES, and if they fail to do so they are the only ones who can be blamed. I welcome objective discussion below, but please know that ridiculous comments like "they were being mean" will not be tolerated. Thank you.