Open vs Closed European Championships
An Open in sports terminology refers to a sporting event or game tournament that is open to contestants regardless of their professional or amateur status, age, ability, gender, sex, or other categorization.
In the FEI, an Open means that championship is open to participants regardless of their nationality.
In FEI Endurance, European championships were Open from the very beginning.
In 1997, European Endurance Championship in Pratoni del Vivaro (Italy) welcomed non-European riders from Saudi Arabia (Tarek TAHER) and from the United States (Valerie KANAVY, Danielle CROUSE, and Amy WALLACE-WHELAN):
In 2003, European Endurance Championship in Punchestown (Ireland) has the participants from the United States (Valerie KANAVY), Saudi Arabia (Tarek TAHER), New Zealand (Madonna HARRIS) as well as from the UAE and Malaysia. This was the first time non-European riders took the top three places:
The big shift occurred in 2005 when European Endurance Championship was officially named Open. 110 participants came to Compiègne (France), including non-European riders from the UAE, Bahrain, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Jordan:
Then the FEI decided to abolish an Open status for future European Endurance Championships.
European Endurance Championships in Samorin in 2015, in Brussels in 2017, and in Euston Park in 2019 were held without the participation of non-European riders.
As you can see from the above chart, abolishing the Open status led to declining the number of participants of European Endurance Championships.
More participants means better competition and more entertainment that attracts more spectators.
The FEI rules allow to participate with borrowed horses, and many riders actually do it.
The newly-crowned European champion 2019 – Constanza LALISCIA from Italy participated with the non-European horse.
And she is not alone. Actually, there were 3 non-European horses in European Endurance Championship 2019 in Euston Park:
- Costanza LALISCIA (ITA) on SACHA EL KANDHAAR (UAE)
- Carolina TAVASSOLI ASLI (ITA) on SEQUINTE (UAE)
- Marijke VISSER (NED) on CASTLEBAR GAMEBOY (UAE)
Moreover, Constanza is not the first European Champion with non-European horse.
Jaume Punti Dachs won the European Champion title in 2015 with AJAYEB. Although, this horse was administered by Spanish NF on the date of the Championship, it was owned by UAE stable since 2012.
So, what’s the point of forbidding non-European riders to participate if non-European horses are allowed?