The Bad: A Rule In Need Of Changing

Take a moment to read the short article I attached below about a pony competing and doing well in upper level Dressage. A pony who’s not allowed to compete in CDI events because of an old FEI rule that assumed every pony on the planet is ridden by a child. Did those who wrote that rule not realize that there are petite women (and men) in the world? Imagine if Karen O’Connor had been told that ‘Teddy’ was too short to compete at Rolex.  Imagine if the AQHA told all those big Cowboys on their pony-sized cutters that they couldn’t compete.

To implement a Dressage rule based on the height of the equine in question is a pretty big oversight. So, to all association members who fall under this FEI Dressage ruling, I ask you to contact those in charge and get this silly rule off the books. Here’s a link to get you started:  USEF

Pony – Oke Doke


19 thoughts on “The Bad: A Rule In Need Of Changing

  1. Was there a general contact us button, I found input sought for their town hall, but that wouldn’t address the pony rule.

    The top level competition belongs to breeders of expensive horses. Connemara ponies aren’t cheap but they aren’t top dollar warmbloods either. Nothing to be gained for the industry if little not so special horses could win just because they were ‘correct’.

    • No, I didn’t see any general contact button or otherwise.

      You could very well be right about the other, which would be a real shame if that’s the prevalent attitude.

    • I got a response, I will try to copy it out later, but mostly it would seem that the international judges can’t judge a pony against a horse. Must be some magical pony movement that distorts their vision. They suggested we go to the national federation for a local rule change.

  2. I poked around but couldn’t find anything on this particular ‘rule’. What is the required height for a horse to compete? Or does the breed make the designation?

    • Well, a pony has always been defined as under 14.2h, no? The pony in question is 14h. Now there are a number of ‘horse’ breeds who throw individuals of ‘pony-size’…QH’s, TB’s, Stbds, Morgans…

      It is possible in this case that the rule sites ‘pony breeds’ as not allowed…but that seems even stranger since people could cross a pony with a horse and get a fine Dressage individual of smaller stature. Not sure why that individual wouldn’t be allowed to compete in CDI’s if they are good enough.

      I’d have liked for the writer of the article to site the specific rule and give a direct reference/link to it, so that readers could do something about it if they wanted to…since it is a stupid rule if it exists to prevent this particular adult rider and pony from competing. Dressage was never suppose to be about exclusivity.

      • It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a small can’t compete against a larger. I could understand having a maximum height to qualify as a pony in jumping classes but what would be the harm in a small horse/pony going up against the WB’s? I’ve seen ponies on Youtube making 1.6M look easy!

        Dressage horses are all various heights, Totilas isn’t all that tall. So does 14H wait outside the arena while 14.2 gets in? Stupid. And that pony is adorable…maybe they’re afraid of him outperforming the 6 figure big boys!

    • 1.49 meters, so a bit above 14.2. Entirely height based rather than breed.

      It’s out of the FEI Rules for Dressage – downloadable from or directly access:

      “Article 422 Conditions of Participation

      1.4 …Horses at all levels must have a height at the withers exceeding one meter and forty nine (1.49 m) including shoes. …”

      Later they define pony:
      “Article P-3 Pony
      A pony is a small Horse whose height at the withers, having been measured on a smooth, level surface, does not exceed one meter forty eight (1.48 m) without shoes. …”

      (Article P-2 gives the Pony Rider age range as 12-16 years old; apparently shorter horses aren’t appropriate once you can drive in the States.)

      I have no idea what the rationale is for continuing (or having started) such nonsense, or how many elevator shod horses there might be out there.

      FEI contact form is here: tho for anyone on Facebook, more public inquiries might catch more eyeballs:

  3. I sent my message. I still think that is about European breeders of high dollar horses controlling the sport at the FEI (international competition at Grand Prix) level. The German dressage ponies, the Connemaras, they could all radically change the face of competition to the detriment of expensive, expensive to keep sound warmbloods. Further the current worship of foot flinging and tense movement would have to change, no pony can look like on out of control transport truck on a 10% downhill grade going across the diagonal.

    • …and they’re cheaper to feed, most won’t need shoes and they’re so freaking cute! Why are people so obsessed with size? Little Morgans can put on quite a show and rock the 17 handers.

      • Well, I’m “obsessed with” taller mounts because I’m 5’11 and look kind of silly on anything under 15hh. But there are many talented little equines out there who certainly deserve the chance to compete, and if the only thing preventing it is their height, I say change the rule!

        • There are many 5′ riders on 17h+ too! Look at Margie Engle….Royce is a tank, I don’t know how she gets him around the course like she does! I’ve had little horses for years, my reiner was (is) 14.1 and I’m 5’5″. I never felt big on that little peanut though she did have a lot of barrel to eat up my leg.

  4. Wow, gorgeous pony. And silly rule. I have no issue with pony-specific classes being limited to children; show ponies are big money and if adults are allowed were allowed in the pony classes, they’d be full of petite adults looking to win ribbons to sell the pony for $$$. But I totally agree that a pony can be a great choice of mount for a smaller adult and if that adult wants to take a crack at showing against the big horses, then what would be the harm? That’s how it works in the hunters and jumpers… the pony-only classes are only open to children, but adults on ponies can compete in the open classes. In fact in the lower-level jumpers the ponies are usually the ones to beat, the big horses just can’t turn as a tight as good pony.

    And for dressage I can’t even begin to understand the rationale of a height rule anyway? At least in hunters, the pony classes have the stride length between jumps adjusted size-appropriately, and a pony in an open class faces a disadvantage of having to ride to a non-optimized stride. But I just can’t see how in dressage the horse’s size has any impact at all on how the judge scores the test. Am I missing something?

  5. Agreed, the rule needs to change. There are plenty of petite adults who simply prefer to ride ponies or at least smaller horses. In the English disciplines there is definitely a height discrimination. I’ve heard many people refer to horses that otherwise jump and move beautifully as “worthless” as they happened to be under 16.0hh.

    • It’s a vicious circle, because the more people show huge horses, the more the courses get designed for them, and it becomes harder and harder for a small horse to get down the lines, therefore harder to be competitive on a small horse, and 16 hands turns into the acceptable bare minimum. Seems like judges prefer to reward the big horse who can lope quietly down a line over the small horse that has to gallop to cover the same distance. But again, that’s over fences. I can’t even wrap my mind around why anyone would even care about the size of dressage horses.

      • That argument makes me want to pick up a small horse (I did just that), and kick everyone’s butt.


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