Frangible Penalty Controversy
The FEI’s rule regarding frangible technology awards 11 penalties to a horse-and-rider team that breaks a frangible device, but it gives the event’s ground jury the power to review the incident and lift the penalties. “In the case of unexpected activation (i.e. activation by an insignificant contact), the Ground Jury will be called to evaluate the possible removal of the penalty,” the rule states.
Renowned coach Jim Wofford supports the use of frangible technology on courses, but says the consistent deployment of the devices presents a problem, citing an example from the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Rider Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot competed there to gain a qualifying score for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but tapped the back rail of Fence 3 on cross country, a frangible open oxer, and broke the pin to result in 11 penalties. The ground jury opted not to remove the frangible penalties in Hannah’s case. Rio Olympic selection procedures stated that a qualifying score could not have any jumping penalties on cross country, so Hannah missed her chance to qualify for Rio.
“If you watched the video footage of the event, many other horses tapped the fence and it didn’t come down,” Jim said. “That’s a life-changing event due to technology we didn’t have 20 years ago and the ground juries have not caught up to it. We have to be aware of that. We have to make the playing field as level as possible and apply new technology in the fairest way possible.”