2021, a year of resilience
2020 was an almost blank year from a sporting perspective due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but what marked 2021 was certainly the resilience of the equestrian world. It was able slowly but surely to resume competitions despite the double curse of Covid and equine rhinopneumonitis during the first quarter. In this respect, the golden palm should be awarded to the organizers who never lost heart and who succeeded, in strict compliance with the many health restrictions for both horses and riders, in organizing events which allowed the athletes to fine-tune their preparation for the year's events.
For the European pairs, two championships – the Olympic Games and the continental championships – found their place in an already busy calendar, especially at the end of the year. If some people had thought that the health crisis would encourage athletes to travel less often, this was not the case. Competition habits remained unchanged! In the United States, the main tours, which took place behind closed doors, allowed the sport to be less affected at the beginning of the year. Looking beyond the results and performances, it was an enormous pleasure to see a young generation of incredible riders emerge this season. Ioli Mytilineou is the perfect example. The 24-year-old Greek rider was undoubtedly the discovery of the European Championships in Riesenbeck. Not only did she make her mark with the quality of her riding but also with her ethics. Preferring to withdraw after a refusal that would have put her off the podium anyway, in order to preserve her Levis de Muze, was a decision that was as mature as it was respectful of her horse.
These notions of the human/horse relationship, animal welfare and respect for horses, have, this year again, come further to the fore in the equestrian world. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, the death of Jet Set, the grotesque scenario of the modern pentathlon event or the bloody mouth of a horse are all images that were widely reported in the general media, serving to remind us of how equestrian sports are questioned by society.
While the International Equestrian Federation is very active on this matter, it does not seem to be ready to make all concessions. This has been shown by the lively debates around the Olympic format with three teams. This change was initiated to meet the IOC requirements regarding the number of countries represented, but which, in the opinion of all, has been a disaster for animal welfare. At the general assembly of the international body, the well-founded and reasoned speeches of the riders in favor of a return to the team format of four changed nothing. At the general assembly of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC), the fighting spirit gave way to weariness. They are tired of having to joust against windmills, tired of being the main actors in high-level sport, but being less heeded than a federation that does not have a pair ready to compete at 5*. So, at Studforlife, for 2022, we hope that the riders will find the pugnacity and bite, both to defend the interests of their horses before the authorities, and to place the subject of animal welfare at the heart of their daily practices. They will always be in the best position to do so!
Happy New Year to all!