To: Equestrian Federation – President Steve Rault

Cc SASCOC -Tubby Reddy

Cc Department of Sports and Recreation -Professor Singh

Cc Department of Agriculture _ The Livestock Improvement Joel Mamabolo

May 24, 2013

Dear Steve,

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 sport.

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 here.

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.

Yours Sincerely,

South African Pony Rider Parents and Professionals

The Pony Rider Parents and Professionals

1. Gunilla Barrow gunilla@barrowflooring.co.za  083 309 5607

Pony Rider Parent

2. Fiona Butcher  fionabutcher@telkomsa.net 083 235 9625

Owner Children’s Riding School Riverpark   – Pony Rider Parent

3. Sue Cook WPCS suecook@wpcs.co.za

Secretary Welsh Pony and Cob Society 083 204 0626

4. Naomi De Jong naomi@tott.co.za 083 274 2999

Pony Rider Parent

5. Jeanne De Villiers  jeanne@fourwaysequine.co.za  084 700 7699

Equine Veterinarian Fourways Clinic

6. Robyn Dixon  rrrobyn@gmail.com 082 550 3555

Pony Rider Parent

7. Mandy Hancke  maniemandy@mweb.co.za 082 377 4262

Owner Carel Hancke Stud –Pony Rider Parent

8. Kim Husband  kim@willowsequestrian.co.za  074 603 0441 

Owner of Willows Equestrian and SANEF Coach

9. Wills Husband  wills@willowequestrian.co.za  

Owner of Willows Equestrian and SANEF Coach 0710752406

10. Vicki Reid Pony Rider Parent

11. Colette Staniland  colette@bizmod.co.za 0824422206

Pony Rider Parent

12. Marion Thomas Pony Rider Parent

13.Candace Wood

Head of SANESA (Interchools 2012)

Pony Rider Parent Dressage

woodc@beaulieucollege.org 0824465667




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 measurement.

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 international standards.

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”.

Dear All,

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 under SANEF.

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.


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


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.



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 Grand

Prix Special + Grand Prix Freestyle Test, The age is counted 1st August for Southern Hemisphere.

Young horse tests are open to 4 to 7 year old horses.

34.8.3 WEIGHT

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 Body.”

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,

Yours in sport, should say ex- equestrian sport.

Lesley Ashton