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IJRC President François Mathy Jr: "Top equestrian sport is facing more and more significant challenges”

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Photo © Fabio Petroni / IJRC IJRC President François Mathy Jr. Photo © Fabio Petroni / IJRC.

In a press release from the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC), its president François Mathy Jr talks about the Club’s projects and commitments for 2024.

What will be the focus of the IJRC's attention and activity in the Olympic year?

"Top equestrian sport is facing more and more significant challenges. To name a few, there is for example the tremendous increase in costs for riders and owners. In cooperation with the organisers and the FEI, we are working towards a stabilised guideline. Other hot topics on the agenda are the unfair consequence of positive tests from contaminated feed; the growing number of national federations who don’t have international athletes competing in jumping but vote on its rules; the effort to maintain the 'social licence to operate' in the world of equestrian sports and the image damage that can result when negative pictures go viral on social media."

Are these issues of particular relevance in the Olympic year?

"We must not rest on our long-term inclusion in the Olympic Movement, despite the compromises made by all three Olympic disciplines following the dropping of the reduced scoring that came into effect in Tokyo. At the end of January, eventing learned that it was not yet formally confirmed for the Los Angeles 2028 Games and would have to submit further changes to its format. This is a strong signal that more attention is needed to present the IOC and the public with the best that show jumping has to offer."

What is the role of education and youth commitment in the future of jumping?

"It is certainly of paramount importance. In the new board of the IJRC we have two young riders: Richard Vogel and Michael Duffy. We aim to involve more and more young horsemen to be protagonists of our sport. Their testimony and participation mean the Club has its boots on the ground and think about the future.

Nowadays, most of the upcoming riders in the international circuit, those who are preparing to become great champions soon, are trained as children in the family environment. The Philippaerts, Harry Charles, Jack Whitaker and, going up a bit with age, Martin Fuchs, are clear examples. Behind a good rider today there must necessarily be a team that guarantees the smooth running of an efficient organisational machine. Talent is not enough.

Competitions are a demanding task and behind a good result as well as the right horses, which have to be found and often grown, there are the relationships with the owners and sponsors, and the challenging management of the stables with all the professional figures who are involved in the complex sphere of handling horse athletes. Starting from the grooms, who have a fundamental role in the daily life of every athlete horse. 

In this respect, Young Riders Academy is performing a truly extraordinary job. It so important to prepare tomorrow's champions with an insight into aspects other than technical training, such as stable and team management, communication, and the legal aspects. Young people must also understand the importance of dealing with institutions and prove that they are not only focused on top results but also think about the image of our wonderful sport."

Is the IJRC's collaboration with the FEI crucial for the development or revision of regulations and all new projects?

"Yes, of course. Princess Haya of Jordan, during her presidency, was the first to realise the importance of the IJRC's cooperation and involvement. She encouraged the riders to join the FEI. Since then, our presence has always increased and we can say with great satisfaction that the voice of the riders is represented in almost all working commissions."


International Jumping Riders Club: athletes, for the athletes

Since it was founded in 1977, the IJRC has worked tirelessly to ensure that the best interests of jumping and its horses and riders are served by the FEI and by the Organizing Committees.

The IJRC Board is entirely comprised of active riders and/or recently retired distinguished riders: François Mathy Jr (President), Ludger Beerbaum, Emilio Bicocchi, Michael Duffy, Steve Guerdat, Rodrigo Pessoa, Kevin Staut, Richard Vogel. The NARG (North American Riders Group) has indicated Tiffany Foster as a representative on the new board together with Kent Farrington and Lauren Hough who can replace her as deputies.

Eleonora Moroni Ottaviani is acting as Director of the Club and represents the athletes in the EEF Board and Jumping Working Group. 

The Board IJRC members are also actively involved in the FEI Jumping Committee (Rodrigo Pessoa), and the FEI Welfare Working Group (Cayetano Martinez De Irujo).

The Club also plays a prominent role in the Longines Ranking Working Group and is allied moreover with the NARG.

The IJRC has had a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the FEI since 2014 and was the first riders group to achieve this status. 

This entitles the IJRC to participate in all consultations prior to changes in FEI sport rules and other policy matters.


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