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Open vs Closed European Championships

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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.

– Wikipedia

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 1985, European Endurance Championship in Rosenau (Austria) welcomed non-European riders from New Zealand (Alexander Clyne HAYWARD) and from the United States (Valerie KANAVY and Darolyn BUTLER):

Jeannie WALDRON from the United States participated in two European Endurance Championships:
in 1987 in Erlangen (Germany):

and in 1993 in Southwell (Great Britain):

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:

In 2007, European Endurance Championship in Barroca d’Alva (Portugal) welcomed non-European riders from the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States:

In 2009, Open European Endurance Championship in Assisi (Italy) has the participants from the UAE, Bahrain, the United States, Malaysia, Qatar, and Uruguay:

In 2011, Open European Endurance Championship in Florac (France) welcomed non-European riders from the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain:

In 2013, Open European Endurance Championship in Most (Czech Republic) has the participants from the UAE, Bahrain, Thailand, and Oman. Again, the top three places were taken by non-European riders:

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.

Italy’s Costanza Laliscia on Sacha El Kandhaar. Photo FEI/Martin Dokoupil

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.

Photo horsereporter.com

So, what’s the point of forbidding non-European riders to participate if non-European horses are allowed?

What are the benefits of Closed Championships if it reduces the number of competitors?

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