Cc Department of Sports and Recreation -Professor Singh
Cc Department of Agriculture _ The Livestock Improvement Joel Mamabolo
May 24, 2013
We are writing on behalf of a group of parents and equestrian professionals who are
deeply concerned about loss of integrity in South African children’s equestrian sport,
especially in relation to pony heights. This has occurred because of the failure
to comply with South African Equestrian Federation (and SAEA) rules and standards,
and Federation Equestre International rules, regulations and standards.
There is resulting widespread concern in South Africa that many of the life height
certificates that have been issued do not comply with the rules, and that many of
the animals competing in protected children’s classes are well over height. These
doubts have seriously undermined the credibility and integrity of the sport.
In addition, South Africa has failed to adopt FEI standards on pony rider ages, allowing
children to compete in pony rider classes until the end of their 16th year, and to
allow children to compete on horses when they are aged 12 to 14.
As you know, we’ve raised our concerns in previous letters to South Africa’s equestrian
leadership bodies including the SAEF. We’ve called for serious steps to ensure compliance
with the South African rules and FEI standards, without delay, for the sake of fair
play, rider safety, horse welfare and the credibility of South African equestrian
Unfortunately, the requests we have made for information in the interests of openness,
accountability and integrity, have not been met and our concerns haven’t been addressed.
We believe that as affiliates of the FEI this past 66 years, it’s crucial that the
SAEF follow the well-established and successful 2006 and 2007 FEI model to clean
up children’s equestrian sport in relation to pony heights. It took the FEI a single
year to restore integrity in children’s equestrian sport in Europe in relation to
pony heights, although critics said it could never be done. This model takes into
account various concerns, including pony/horse welfare and sets down measuring protocols
and appeals processes, and creates a working model that could be swiftly adopted
One major concern arose after the Secretary General of the SAEA, Shelly Beckbessinger,
sent out a notice recently informing all interested parties that no ponies with life
height certificates issued before last August would be affected by future steps to
comply with FEI and to introduce measuring procedures. We believe this statement
should not have been issued, since measuring one group of ponies and not another
group would put South Africa in direct contradiction with FEI standards of fair play,
and also FEI rules which have introduced on the measurement of all ponies at European
competitions and random measurements at other events – regardless of whether these
ponies have certificates. Moreover, it contradicted the SAEA’s own constitution on
fair play and sportsmanship.
South Africa is also in breach of the FEI Code of Conduct and standards of fair play,
since no steps have been taken to ensure that existing life height certificates were
issued in compliance with regulations and to check whether these are actually valid
and issued by two officially appointed measurers in the province where the horse
is competing. To be valid according to FEI, the pony must measure 149.99cm or less
including shoes, which will be recorded as 149cm, applying FEI approved method of
rounding down to full centimeter. The Provincial Bodies in South Africa have used
rounding up to full centimeter and a pony measuring 149.99 cm has been recorded as
1.50m. This has caused great confusion amongst the members who generally incorrectly
believe that FEI Ponies are officially smaller than South African Ponies.
In addition, unlike most FEI affiliates, South Africa has curtailed any open and
transparent process of appeals or protests to ground juries by competitors when another
competitor is riding a pony that is obviously well over maximum height.
When we raised questions with Ms Beckbessinger about what steps were taken to ensure
the winners and top place-getters of the 2013 Pony Rider Derby had life height certificates
that were issued in compliance with the rules – or alternatively were measured to
ensure they complied with the rules - we received no response to those questions.
We also asked what steps had been taken in general to check whether life height
certificates of open ponies were issued in compliance with the rules and we received
no response to that question either.
We are seeking a meeting with you as president of the SAEF, to discuss our concerns
that in future, integrity and fairness in children’s equestrian sport be restored
without delay and without fear or favor, bringing to a close this terribly damaging
era when one group of competitors’ interests have been protected, while another group
of competitors’ interests have been compromised. One aim of this meeting would be
to discuss the best ways in which this could be swiftly achieved. The FEI did it
quickly, in Europe, and we believe South Africa can do it too.
We attach an appendix outlining areas of the rules that are commonly breached because
of lack of enforcement by the sporting leadership bodies.
We would to meet with you about these issues at your earliest convenience.
South African Pony Rider Parents and Professionals
RULES, REGULATIONS AND OTHER REQUIREMENTS THAT ARE NOT ENFORCED BY SOUTH AFRICAN
LEADERSHIP BODIES, LEADING TO COMMON BREACHES, and OTHER RELEVANT SOUTH AFRICAN LAWS:
FEI Veterinarian Regulations Annex XVII. This lays out FEI rules on pony heights
and measuring procedures.
FEI General Regulations Appendix A. This covers the “Definition of Pony Rider” and
sets out that a Pony Rider may compete in all major disciplines until the end of
the year they turn 16, an important element of rider safety.
FEI regulations on record-keeping relating to passports and microchipping of ponies
(effective from January 2013) and verification of a pony’s identification before
SAEF Code of Conduct. The code is designed to promote ethical behavior, promote fair
play, honesty and the rights of all competitors, and to educate parents, coaches
and others about standards of fair play and ethics. Section 8.1 speaks of the obligation
to “respect the rules and play in the spirit of the game.” Section 8.7 refers to
the obligation to “compete fairly”. Section 8.11 refers to the obligation to maintain
integrity. Section 9.12 refers to the obligation on sports officials to maintain
SAEF Constitution. This states that the SAEF is “governed by the rules and regulations
as provided for in the Sports Act, and rules and regulations of the Federation Equestre
Internationale (FEI) for the disciplines, which are FEI disciplines, the rules and
regulations of other international Sporting parent bodies for those relevant equestrian
disciplines, as well as the rules and regulations of SASCOC.”
Section 7.6 deals with the SAEF’s obligation to “consider and ensure enforcement
of rules to control equestrian sport in South Africa.”
Section 7.13 sets out the SAEF’s legal obligation “to comply with the requirements
of the Sports Act”
Section 8.1.15 refers to the SAEF’s obligation to punish any member affiliated to
the SAEF for “infringing the Constitution, policies, principles or resolutions of
SAEF or for engaging in acts of misconduct, improper practices, misdemeanor, acts
of defiance, or for bringing SAEF into disrepute.”
Section 10.5.1 refers to the obligation of members, officials, office bearers and
others ”to respect the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship recognized
by SAEF, and other international affiliate bodies and SASCOC.”
National Sport and Recreation Act: Section 13 refers to the fact that every sporting
body must in accordance with its internal rules and its constitution, “resolve any
dispute arising amongst its members or with its governing body”. It obliges the SAEF
to notify the Minister in writing of any dispute, as soon as it becomes aware of
such dispute. If the dispute is not resolved, any member who feels aggrieved may
submit the dispute to the Sports Confederation.
Section 13, 4) says the Sports Confederation may take up an investigation to discover
the truth about “any malpractice of any kind” in the administration of any sport,
or “violation of the rights and freedoms on individuals” in the sport. Paragraph
4 further states the Minister may in any dispute, alleged mismanagement of other
matter that is likely to bring a sport into disrepute.
Draft Constitution of Show Jumping South Africa. The draft lists objective 13 as
being to “promote sportsmanship and honourable practice at Show Jumping events.”
Objective 13 is to “to promote the improvement of the standard and quality of horses”.
Thank you for allowing me to read this well composed input by some Pony Rider Parents.
I had also heard that the National Committee was looking to adopt the FEI heights
– maybe they are over whelmed at present and have overlooked the issue?
Having been through this saga some 12 years ago, even before SANEF had sold their
soul to FEI rules…..not that there is anything wrong with the FEI rules, however
I will go on to describe some of the
experiences and evolution of “horse sport rules” I still recall frustrated us.
Noteworthy , like with constitutions, if rules are constantly being adapted then
one must question what was the criteria when the rules/constitution were drawn up…i.e.
what “good sound minds and what agenda were they applying?” when drawing up the constitution
and rules. What is the current “Agenda” for the rules/constitutions to be re-addressed.
In the long gone past – Gonda Beatrix and Judy Louw riding days – there was NO pony
riders – they competed as Juniors.
Then as South Africans are inclined to over horse their youngsters they adapted rules
There obviously still remains a following for this. A further reason for retaining,
these rules, I have been lead to believe in the past, that it is in order to continue
accommodating and ensuring that there remains participation and growth (and a monetary
source for the society to bleed) at a child rider level.
So now the question comes to the actual Pony Heights – which ever are finally adopted
– there will always be those that try to stretch/shrink a measuring tape. So I think
it is more important at this stage to ensure that legitimate measuring takes place
with dire consequences to those that choose to ignore, the importance of the legitimately
issued height certificate – life or otherwise by a “qualified” height measurer.
So here comes to my personal experience: I had a qualified Paid person (there are
only 2 official people in the Western Cape available and Veterinarians at present)
come out to measure a pony – the measuring stick was one you can buy over the counter
and it was old and wobbly. The person concerned had no idea of right angles and perpendicular
etc. so depending on the lean of the measuring stick – could vary the measurement
by at least 1 cm. (excluding the 1cm taken off for being shod).
A Veterinarian came the next day – the pony had, had the usual farrier call in the
morning and had be reshod with new shoes. He stated he would stand in any Court of
Law and vouch for his measurements of the pony on that day. He stood the pony up
against a wall on level concrete – put a straight long block of wood across the pony’s
wither (with a bubble level gauge on top of the wood to ensure 100% horizontal) and
made a marking on the wall. He then checked with a square ruler with bubble level
for the horizontal and perpendicular that the wall was built straight. He then measured
to the base of the wall and took the measurement. He did this twice and two different
positions along the wall.
I have seen measuring sticks – rather expensive ones – that have this ability as
well. I also hear that they are producing a lazar measuring stick at present overseas
– which would probably be very accurate. But here is the point, unless you can vouch
for the mechanism for measuring – all the rules can go out the window. If people
are being paid to do a professional job, they should have the professionally approved
equipment regularly checked by National measurement standards. (Don’t think South
African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has any particular legislation regarding a measuring
stick, but they could probably advise.)
I don’t disagree with either FEI heights or SAEA currently proposed heights, but
at least there is clarity with the FEI heights and are then also acceptable should
one compete overseas. The main point is that there has to be trust and legitimacy
with the measuring procedures and serious consequences to the pony and owner should
there be a proven discrepancy. This proof has to also be obtained by an outside qualified
party immediately available should a dispute occur. Which means a level concrete
surface needs to be available at all competitions.
PONY RIDER AGES
In our time, the poor child rider had to give up her beloved pony if she/he was competitive
at an emotional tender stage of their development – having been able to ride in their
14th birthday year till the end of that calendar year. In my case, my child was diminutive
in statue, her birthday was in November, so she really got no 14th year to ride her
much loved and expensive pony, which she still had not quite got the full potential
from and go straight on to a competitive horse…. Talking show jumping here…. So in
her 14th year she landed up jumping 1.2/1.3 not clever for a small built child rider
in my opinion! The flexibility that currently prevails in the rules allows for the
large/tall child rider to switch to a horse or in my case the child rider now 23
years old still looks like a child rider on a full sized pony J
AGE OF HORSES:
I think this aspect needs to be maybe relooked at and ensure some clarity:
APPLICATION OF SANEF GENERAL REGULATIONS AGE RESTRICTION FOR HORSES 41.3.1 Notwithstanding
SANEF General Regulation 05.1.1, horses may compete in Eventing Competitions from
the 1st August of the calendar year in which they reach the age listed below: Eventing
80 Four years Eventing 90 and Eventing 100 Five years CNC * and ** Five years CNC
***, CCN* and** Six years CCN*** Seven years
Jumping: AGE OF HORSES: Horses entered for CSI 1* or 2* events must be at least 6
(six) years of age. Seems they have lost part of their rules.
34.8.2 AGE OF HORSES/PONIES
Horses may take part provided they are aged over 4 years below Prix St George level,
7 years and
over Prix St George and Intermediate level and 8 years and over for Grand Prix including
Prix Special + Grand Prix Freestyle Test, The age is counted 1st August for Southern
Young horse tests are open to 4 to 7 year old horses.
I also found that SAEA did not have any knowledge of the following, nor had it ever
been implemented….. see below:
When I was checking through the passport I saw this Clause 6 –
“6. Details of any leasing agreement, approved by the National Federation, must be
entered clearly and authenticated by an official of the leasing National Federation/Regional
One other issue which SANEF/SAEA (they have not quite evolved yet) do not seem to
come to terms with, is that like in all sports codes, one goes from school sports
colours, to club colours, to provincial colours, to national and international colours.
The SANEF/SAEA show judges, officials and administrators still want to hang on to
the bread and butter money of doting cash cow like parents to make competitive shows
viable and that to add insult to injury, treat the parents (who in the past if they
had not paid family membership had no vote) with total disrespect. Therefore SANESA
should be the main channel and should be strictly monitored to maintain good standards
of riding and horsemastership as well.
Just one last thing….. it is important for all the constitutions to include some
of the points I have made in terms show jumping constitution which is currently being
worked on – as attached.
Thank you for taking the time to read my penny worth,