You are probably aware of this proposed rule change by now, but if not: the first draft of changes to the FEI general regulations for 2020 suggests altering their wording, which previously would have allowed mules to compete in FEI competitions, to specify that “Horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from the union of a mare and a horse stallion and classified as equus caballus” (the additional wording is in red).
You could argue that there are no mules competing at FEI level, so what difference does it make? However, the problem here is that this affects competitive mule owners and riders at many different levels worldwide.
In 2016, I ran this article about an attempt to pass an amended rule that would allow mules to participate in all non-breed related divisions at USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) competitions. Sadly, this rule did not go through.
More recently – after British Dressage allowed Wallace The Great to compete because, after consultation with the FEI, they decided to adopt FEI wording – another USEF rule change proposal was submitted in June that would allow mules to compete in US eventing. Typically, USEF adjusts its rules to follow FEI and the proposed change would go through an internal review process before being considered for public comment.
This rule change proposal from the FEI now puts this USEF rule change in jeopardy. It also has potential to affect mule owners in the UK who have only just had the doors to British Dressage opened to them. We already see mules being refused entry to local shows and low-level competitions in all disciplines for no reason other than ignorance, and the FEI stance may embolden these prejudices.
As a US mule enthusiast explains, “While USEF has its own rule book for national competitions, they often try to parallel rules with the FEI. It was the hope of many mule owners/riders that the USEF would follow the FEI on the definition of horse and allow mules to compete in all disciplines shared by the two organisations (eventing, dressage, jumping, combined driving, endurance, vaulting, and reining). With the recent proposed change to eliminate mules from the FEI definition, the concern is that the USEF will follow suit to discourage inclusion of mules in other disciplines currently not permitting them. I would like to assume that since mules are permitted in dressage, combined driving, and endurance via USEF, that a change by the FEI wouldn’t disallow them. However, it would make it harder for jumpers, eventers, reiners, etc to get on board if someone wanted to use the FEI’s definition as a scapegoat. Additionally, some regional and local competitions utilise the USEF rules and won’t allow mules because USEF won’t allow them. So again, if FEI says no, USEF says no, then locals may say no too. This is painful because the local level is where most mule riders exist and want to participate.”
So how can we take a stand?
A petition has been set up and I would encourage you all to sign and share it among your contacts. We must make it clear that this is a ridiculous and damaging rule. Mule Welfare UK has written an open letter regarding the proposed change – featured below – and I trust that the British Mule Society will soon follow suit.
Mules can do anything a horse can. We will not stand by and allow them to be barred from exhibiting their wonderful talents.