Interview with ZDF, Germany
Interview to be featured in a 30-minute programme called "Mission Gold”, which will outline the successful history of Germany in the Olympic equestrian events. It will also cover problematic areas such as doping and rollkur. The programme will air on 26 July at 22.45.
1. Our audience are mostly not riders. Could you describe, what in your personal opinion is the fascination of horse-riding.
• The fascination with horse riding is about the bond with the horse, the unconditional friendship the horse offers and the adventures you have with your horse as you grow together.
• This bond you have with your own horses is reflected in your own stables where you now have the younger generations of your horses.
• Early experiences with horses are also extremely special and ever since childhood, your life has been intrinsically linked to equestrian sport:
- reference to early experiences, including being given an orphan foal
- aged 13 became first female equestrian to represent Jordan
- in 1992 won Individual Bronze at the Pan-Arab Equestrian Games and to this day only female ever to have won a Pan-Arab medal in the sport - in 2000, fulfilled lifelong dream by competing at the Sydney Olympic Games
- in 2002 competed for Jordan in the World Equestrian Games in Spain, becoming the first Arab woman to qualify for and compete in an equestrian world championship
• Primary motivation now is the belief that equestrian sport improves lives, breaks down barriers between people and nations, and from a gender perspective, it empowers women as equestrian sport is one of the few that allows men and women to compete against each other on an equal footing.
*Response if asked about Dalma Rushdi Malhas and female athletes at London 2012:
“Regretfully Dalma Rushdi Malhas has not attained the minimum eligibility standards and consequently will not be competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. However, we understand that the IOC has a number of other female athletes from Saudi Arabia in other sports who are currently under consideration. The FEI is very proud to have been the International Federation to field the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia at the Youth Olympic Games when Dalma won individual bronze in the Jumping, and we very much look forward to seeing her on the Olympic stage again.”
2. To ride a horse is completely different from riding for example a motorcycle. What about the relationship between a rider and his horse. Some people say there must be love. The bond between you and your horse is a unique feeling and the relationship is very close between riders and their horses. That feeling of knowing each other, understanding each other and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company is common amongst riders and their horses. Whether you ride horses for sport or for leisure, you know that whatever you achieve you achieve this together through training, through trust, and through care. We love every minute of being with our horses, from the grooming and preparation before riding, to the moment you slip into the saddle and take the first few steps which fills you with joy.
3. Horse riding as a professional sport:
What is about the balance between success and welfare of the horse. Is there a clear priority?
The FEI’s Code of Conduct puts the welfare of the horse above all other considerations. This ensures that those involved in equestrian sport acknowledge that horse welfare remains paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences. Welfare will always be central to our sport, which is vital for the horse. This is also in the best interests of the sport: we will only see the highest standards of equestrianism if we subscribe to the highest standards of equine care. This is why we have experts in place to safeguard horse health at FEI competitions, there are systems created to protect the safety of horses while they compete and that they receive excellent care throughout FEI competitions.
4. The Olympic Games in London will be the most seen competition in horse riding. There will be a worldwide billion audience. What we will see, what are the attractions?
• London 2012 Olympic Games marks 100 years of equestrian sport in the Olympic movement.
• The Opening Ceremony on 27 July will be followed by 12 days of top-class equestrian competition in Greenwich Park, where the world’s best horses and riders will compete for six gold medals in the Olympic disciplines of Eventing, Dressage and Jumping.
• The excitement in the run-up the Olympic equestrian events at London 2012 has been huge and the stunning location of Greenwich Park means that we are right back at the heart of the Games.
• We are proud to be given centre stage at such a poignant time when we will be marking 100 years of equestrian sport in the Olympic movement.
• London 2012 will see the world’s best athletes and their horses step into the global spotlight, engaging youngsters and older generations around the world and enriching the lives of people from different social backgrounds and cultural heritages.
5. At the last Olympic Games in Hong Kong unfortunately we have seen some doping and medication cases. Was this a shock for you?
This was a challenging time for the sport, but the absence of any cases at high profile events since – for example at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, the Asian Games and the Jumping events at the Youth Olympics in 2010 - is the best endorsement of the FEI’s Clean Sport Campaign, which was launched in 2010 and proves the value of the FEI’s education programme.
6. What about doping in horse-riding sport in general? Is there a significant problem?
Equestrian sport derives its credibility and public acceptance from the concept of fair play. Doping and the inappropriate use of normal medications present a serious threat to the integrity and reputation of our sport, because they give athletes an unfair advantage and threaten the welfare of our horses. Our athletes and those working with horses are fully aware of their responsibilities thanks to the FEI’s Clean Sport campaign. As previously mentioned, the absence of cases at the high profile events over the last few years demonstrates that our focus on this is helping.
7. What about the anti-doping-fight of the FEI. Are there any changes or special measures taken since Hong Kong?
2008 – 2009 dateline for reference:
• 2008: The Commission on Anti-Doping & Medication was set up in November 2008 in response to the Hong Kong cases. The Commission, which was chaired by Professor Arne Ljungqvist, Vice-President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Chairman of the IOC Medical Commission, brought together representatives of every area of veterinary medicine as well as representatives of all the stakeholder groups in horse sport and its governing bodies.
• 2009: Separately, in May 2009, the FEI set up an Ethics Panel as an independent commission to assess and investigate practices among members of the German equestrian team and its officials at the 2008 Olympic equestrian events in Hong Kong. Under the chairmanship of Britain’s former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, the Ethics Panel was renamed the Stevens Commission. The Stevens Commission remit was subsequently broadened to include a wider overview of equestrian sport to dovetail with the work of the Ljungqvist Commission and provide the FEI with a complete spectrum of changes to be implemented in the fight against doping. The recommendations from the Stevens Commission, which were published in September 2009, supported and supplemented the work of the Ljungqvist Commission. The work of the two Commissions was then aligned at a meeting in October 2009 to produce the Joint-Commission Recommendations, which received overwhelming support at the General Assembly in Copenhagen on 19 November 2009, setting out a roadmap of revolutionary changes designed to transform the face of equestrian sport.
• Prohibited List - new approach: a new approach was agreed for the list of prohibited substances to clearly define the differences between Controlled Medication and Banned Substances. The ultimate goal of this approach is to provide riders and veterinarians with as much clarity as possible. The concept of one detailed List with everything spelled out also closely mirrors the approach taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in regard to human athletes. Our educational outreach on this is helping athletes to avoid inadvertent positives caused by using medication permitted outside competition too close to an event. Banned Substances and Controlled Medication should not be found in a horse in competition.
• FEI Clean Sport launched in 2010: The FEI’s Clean Sport Campaign was launched in April 2010 with the aim of ensuring a level playing field and protecting the welfare of our equine athletes by providing everyone involved with the necessary information and tools. The FEI is using the latest technology in its Clean Sport campaign to ensure the message is being received loud and clear by everyone involved in our sport. We have launched online tools and mobile phone apps, which can be accessed through our dedicated Clean Sport website to promote education and ensure these regulations are adhered to. We are also focusing our efforts on young athletes for instance to ensure that the next generation grows up with the Clean Sport campaign, that they are fully aware of the system and understand any fundamental changes as they progress through their competitive careers – and what better example for them than to see a clean Olympic Games. As a result of all of the FEI’s Clean Sport campaign work, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of positive cases in the Olympic disciplines. As previously mentioned, the absence of cases at the high profile events over the last few years demonstrates that our focus on this is helping. But the FEI is aware that the job is not finished and we will continue to focus on stamping out prohibited substances in our sport.
8. In Germany there was a big discussion (after Hong Kong) about horse riding, doping and finally about the ethical protection of animals. What about the responsibility of the riders for the welfare of their horses? What is the position of FEI in this question?
As discussed previously, the FEI requires all those involved in international equestrian sport to adhere to the FEI’s Code of Conduct and to acknowledge and accept that at all times the welfare of the horse must be paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences. The FEI Code of Conduct also clearly states that at all stages during the preparation and training of competition horses, welfare must take precedence over all other demands. This includes good horse management, training methods, farriery and tack, and transportation. Horses and competitors must also be fit, competent and in good health before they are allowed to compete, and at event where they are competing careful attention must be paid to the competition areas, ground surfaces, weather conditions, stabling, site safety and fitness of the horse for onward travel after the event.
The FEI Code of Conduct also states that every effort must be made to ensure that horses receive proper attention after they have competed and that they are treated humanely when their competition careers are over.
*Response if asked “What will happen if there is a positive test in London 2012”: The FEI will provisionally suspend any athlete whose horse tests positive at the Olympic Games, and they will be eligible for a preliminary hearing in front of a member of the FEI Tribunal during Games time. This will apply to positive results for both banned substances and controlled medication.
9. Today the German audience is fascinated by Totilas. Some call him the miraculous horse. Miraculous also for you? How important are horses like Totilas and the publicity around them for the future development of horse sport in general?
Totilas has become an incredible icon in a relatively short time, and has made Dressage one of our most popular disciplines, drawing enthusiasts from every discipline to watch and follow him. He is the equivalent of an equine rockstar. He knows he is beautiful and commands attention wherever he goes. His paces are superb and his performances simply breathtaking. He is a winner through and through. He also has a huge international fan base, which will grow even further if he performs well at London 2012.
Horses like Totilas, who are incredibly successful and have wonderful personalities, are extremely precious because they help to put the sport in the limelight and this excitement they generate helps to develop our sport around the world.
10. What about the role of German riders and German horses in the international horse scene. Are there still an important part, like they’ve been the years before?
Germany, as we all know, is a powerhouse in horse sport, with generations of highly successful riders and horses. Germany is going to be super strong in all three disciplines in London:
• There are currently more German riders in the Rolex Rankings, the world rankings for Jumping, than any other nation. With the likes of Ludger Beerbaum, who has been ranked world number 1 on numerous occasions, Marco Kutscher, Marcus Ehning and Christian Ahlmann who all have amazing horses, Germany will be very hard to beat at London 2012.
• In Dressage, we also have more Germans than any other nation within the top 10 of the world rankings. Again, Germany has incredible options for London 2012 with the likes of Matthias Alexander Rath with Totilas, Helen Langehanenburg is the woman of the moment coming second in the World Cup, securing gold in the German Championships and competing this week at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen and Isabell Werth.
• In Eventing, Germany has the incredible Michael Jung, who is hot favourite to become the first rider ever to hold the Olympic, world and European titles all at the same time. You’ve also got Sandra Auffarth, Andreas Dibowski, Frank and Andreas Ostholt, Dirk Schrade and Ingrid Klimke.
11. What about the importance and the future role of Asia for the riding scene? Equestrian sport in Asia has increased in popularity enormously since the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The equestrian events were staged in Hong Kong, opening up our sport to a completely new audience, and they fell in love with it. Since then, the sport has mushroomed in the region, reflecting an incredible global growth. We believe the sport will continue to grow in the Far East, thanks to the support of governments in Asia, the National Federations in Asia, equestrian specialists around the world and the sport’s heightened profile to wide-ranging audiences on television and other media platforms. From a commercial perspective, there is also an extremely strong potential for the development of equestrian sport in Asia as a strategic market for western European luxury brands. We expect to see prestigious international sponsors supporting the growth of equestrian sport as the perfect vehicle to reach affluent Asian audiences.
*If asked about global growth of FEI competitions: In 2011, there were over 3,200 FEI competitions held around the world for the disciplines governed by the FEI, representing a 34% growth on the number of competitions held in 2010 (see table below).
Given the growing popularity of equestrian sport worldwide, we expect the number of FEI competitions around the world at all levels to continue growing.
*If asked if there a danger with globalisation - in countries like Asia, South America, where economical pressures are high, could this make events go wrong/put pressure on not to follow the correct procedures? Global growth is inevitable because equestrian sports around the world are growing in popularity. However, the FEI is ensuring this growth is organised. We have seen extremely high standards and professionalism in China, and South America recently successfully hosted the 16th Pan American Games which with more than 6,000 athletes was the largest multi-sport event of 2011.
*If the journalist asks why the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Chinese league will not take place this year: Background: It is a major government transition year in China with the November appointment of the General Secretary who will then become President in March 2013, when other party leaders will also take up their new posts. Agreed message: Due to Chinese government election proceedings in September and October this year, during which large-scale events in Beijing cannot take place, the FEI World Cup™ Chinese League will now be postponed until 2013. The FEI World Cup™ Jumping Chinese League has been extremely successful, bringing together elite riders from across the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Tibet. The FEI is now looking forward to working closely with the Chinese government and its National Federations in China, Hong Kong and Korea on the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Chinese League in 2013.
12. There are some people who want to copy the success of horses like Totilas by cloning them. What do you think about this? What is your opinion on cloning? Does it fit with the idea of horsemanship? What about the participation of clones at FEI competitions?
In-depth research on cloning, which has resulted in increased understanding of the technique, was presented to and debated at the FEI Sports Forum (8-9 June 2012). That research shows that the performance of a cloned horse is unlikely to match that of the original horse for a number of reasons, including the maternal uterine environment, nutrition, training and the understanding that clones are 98% the same as the original horse. Additionally, as progeny of cloned horses will be produced by conventional reproductive methods, such as natural covering or artificial insemination, the FEI's 2007 stated objective of maintaining fair play is upheld. The FEI will therefore not forbid participation of clones or their progenies in FEI competitions. However, we will continue to monitor further scientific research, especially with regard to horse welfare.
* ZDF interviewed Germany’s National Federation Secretary General Soenke Lauterbach on 11 June for the same documentary. Soenke was unaware of the above position at the time and quoted the below position, which is also the same position as the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses. Full wording of prior view on cloning, which was declared at the 2007 General Assembly: “The competitive equestrian couple of horse and rider are both acknowledged as athletes by the FEI. The cloning of either with a view to competing at international level would be unacceptable to the FEI. The FEI opposes cloning for it goes against one of the FEI’s basic objectives: to enable FEI athletes “to compete in international events under fair and even conditions. Cloning technology is ever changing. The FEI is monitoring this closely while considering the necessary implementation of rules to safeguard fairness in the disciplines it governs.” *ZDF has confirmed they will not ask about stem cells and gene doping, but just in case: “Gene doping is something not currently specified in the FEI Regulations, but we are monitoring the risk of this ever occurring in our sport in the future, and would introduce a prohibition if the level of threat of gene-doping was thought to increase. Stem cell therapy is a recognised treatment to assist in tissue repair but in no way alters the genetic structure, whereas gene doping is an attempt to improve and change the original genetic structure.”
13. What about “Rollkur”? We have seen this type of riding recently at Totilas. The critics said, that it’s cruelty to animals. What is the FEI position on this subject? Where are the limits?
In February 2010, following a round table on this issue, hyperflexion/Rollkur was re-defined as flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force, which is therefore unacceptable. While what happens in the warm-up area is the responsibility of the rider, trainer and the Steward on duty, participants at the round table emphasised that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider. That being said, it is the FEI’s role, through its Stewards, to ensure that the riders and trainers are aware of that responsibility and that they uphold the FEI rules on welfare. A consensus was reached at the round table to clearly spell out the rule in the Stewards’ Manual. There is a 10-minute limit on the use of Low, Deep and Round, or LDR, but the Stewards’ Manual also explicitly states that deliberate extreme flexions of the neck involving either high, low or lateral head carriages, should only be performed for very short periods. FEI stewards therefore keep a close eye on the training and warm-up techniques of all riders at FEI events to ensure that there are no violations of FEI rules relating to horse welfare. If there are, the FEI Stewards will step in to stop it. If the rules are violated, riders are sanctioned. Ensuring horse welfare is a constant in the FEI’s daily work. It is the wish of all of us who love the horse to ensure that they are happy athletes and the FEI is continuously working on education for riders, trainers and Stewards so that we are all aiming for a common goal, to protect the welfare of our partner, the horse. The FEI’s rules apply at all FEI events and are they are very clear on this. The FEI does not have jurisdiction outside of FEI events, however, we do impress on riders and trainers the importance of their ongoing responsibilities with respect to horse welfare.
*If asked if Totilas is unhappy with Mathias Alexander Rath: Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas have taken a while to get to know each other, but the partnership is now well established and they have had some extremely good performances. Watching them compete together in Greenwich will be wonderful. *If asked if Totilas is ill, and should the horse be competing if he is ill: All horses competing in FEI events undergo fitness to compete checks by FEI vets on arrival and during the event. Sick horses are not allowed to compete in FEI competitions.
14. Finally: What is your idea of a perfect horsemanship? What is your guiding vision?
We often hear it said that horses are our best mirrors and they reflect back what we project and put into the relationship, whether this is for leisure or when competing at the highest levels. Perfect horsemanship is this harmony, and providing the needs for this relationship, which includes maintaining the most comfortable environment for your horse, is key. Guiding Vision:
• To develop equestrian sports around the globe within the equestrian community and also outside this, broadening the horizons and opportunities for people of all ages and economic and cultural backgrounds.
• This needs to be done in unison with the National Federations affiliated to the FEI and athletes, while respecting good governance and strong values that celebrate the horse and horsemanship, and of course horse welfare.