Boring… but necessary. Without the existence of rules and regulations, would it even be possible to have sports and competitions as we know them? Competitors perform actions and are judged not only on performance but also on how they follow the rules.

Knowledge of and compliance with the rules of any sport are required of each participant and it is no different in equestrian sport. Imagine if equestrian competitors did not know, let alone follow the rules: competitions would be chaos! A competitor’s understanding and following of the rules of their chosen discipline or breed sport is essential. This also holds true for any official, competition organizer, coach, volunteer or anyone else involved with competition.

There are many people that do not like following rules because they represent some kind of restriction, but rules in sports exist to create even and fair playing fields. When rules are properly set and followed, they provide a stable environment and competitor co-existence at a competition, resulting in peace and order. We need them.

But why are there so many rules? With 10 Equestrian Canada (EC) Rules sections containing more than 3,000 combined pages, one could assume that everything would be covered. However, realistically, it is not possible to provide for every conceivable eventuality in our written rules. This is where common sense, rule inquiries and a rule amendment process come into play.

If there is no rule to deal specifically with a particular circumstance or if the closest interpretation of the pertinent rule would result in an obvious injustice, it is the duty of those responsible to make a decision based on common sense and fair play, thus reflecting as closely as possible the intention of the EC Rules. If in doubt about a rule, no matter how big or small, reach out to EC or the Steward or Technical Delegate at a competition to inquire. I promise, Stewards and Technical Delegates don’t bite: if anything, they know the rules like the back of their hand and would much rather you ask first.

The EC Rules are living documents and EC has adopted an evergreen rules process where the rules are updated annually. As time goes on, new rules may be needed or old ones changed in order to fit the current state and ever-expanding knowledge of the equestrian community. A good example of this is rules relating to tack. Manufacturers are always coming up with new designs to improve functionality, safety and welfare, and of course, competitors want to know if their latest and greatest purchase (or, hopefully, pre-purchase) is permitted in the competition ring.

When we at EC receive rule inquiries, we not only endeavor to provide clarification on the rule to the asker, but we also delve into the rule itself to see if it requires amending for clarification or if that latest piece of tack really should be included, whether permitted or not. We could not possibly do this all on our own and, as such, have a panel of discipline and breed sport experts whom we lean on for their wealth of knowledge.

When rule changes come into effect, there is always the small possibility that, no matter how thoroughly the rule change has been thought through and vetted by EC staff, experts and committees, it is just not a great fit. Competitors, Officials and competition organizers are the people out there living and breathing our rules at competitions, and we rely upon them to let us know what works or does not out on the playing field.

2020 has been a year like no other. The ongoing global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic seems to have affected everything, including the EC Rule amendment process. Based on available resources and in collaboration with the EC National Rules Committee (NRC), we have adopted an adapted rule amendment process for this year. Changes to the EC Rules for 2021 will be made through a condensed process similar to that of the Extraordinary Amendment Process. As part of the adapted process, Rule Change Proposals (RCP) have been limited to only those deemed essential, meaning those changes are absolutely necessary. For comparison, the 2020 Rules included a total of 312 changes, whereas the 2021 Rules will only see a total of 69 essential changes.

Any changes deemed non-essential will be put forward for consideration next year as part of the 2022 EC Rule amendment process.

The 2021 EC Rules, updated to include essential changes, will be available online in clean copy and changes visible versions as usual but hardcopy rule books will not be printed in 2021.

So, before you step into the competition ring next, take a moment and ask yourself whether you truly know and understand your discipline or breed sport rules. It is your responsibility after all, and you never know what little nugget of knowledge you might find when you take a moment to sit down and read through the EC Rules!


Lindsey Blakely
Coordinator, Technical Programs – Officials and Rules| 

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