by Donna Taylor
Last year, a mule, Wallace The Great, not only won a dressage class when he was competing against horses, but overturned the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) rules allowing mules to participate in national dressage competitions in the United Kingdom.
In January 2019, the FEI rewrote it’s definition of the term “horse” to allow mules to compete on the international stage. Wallace the Great and his owner made history and it was a great day for mules.
However, in the United Kingdom in late July there have been many articles written in the national newspapers relating to Wallace the Great and a change in allowing mules to participate in dressage competitions.
Wallace the Great is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and female horse and was previously allowed to compete because the rule book stated that a horse is defined as being “born from a mare.”
The International Federation for Equestrian Sports are now threatening to change the rules. They have said “The Italian National Federation has put forward a proposal to amend the definition of horse to clarify that mules are not considered horses and therefore cannot compete in FEI competitions. This proposal is supported by the FEI veterinary department and FEI board. The recommended change will be voted on in Moscow in November.
The current definition states that a “horse: refers also to a pony or other member of the genus equus unless the context requires otherwise. A horse shall be born from a mare.”
The new wording is suggested as: “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.”
Christie McLean, who rode Wallace the Great in the dressage competition, started an online petition to show FEI just how much the world supports it’s longeared equines. The petition hosted at change.org states the following: “The primary argument against mules states that ‘mules are not horses.’ This statement is quite literally only half correct; though mules are not horses, they are most definitely half horses. They are used in all the same facets as a horse (riding, driving, pack, etc) wear the same tack, and are trained/ridden in the same manner as a horse. They display the same gaits and can perform the same training maneuvers in competition. For these reasons, an official should be capable of judging a mule amongst horse competitors. Mules have more in common with horses than not and therefore should be viewed simply as another breed.
Allowing mules to compete will open equestrian sport to a whole new set of members with which will come increased participation, fresh ideas, a larger volunteer pool, and more opportunities to grow and improve equestrian sport throughout the world.”
At the time of press, there were over 20,500 signatures on the petition. I sincerely hope that the FEI take note of the number of people who have signed it.
I cannot tell you just how disappointed and angry I am to hear this news. Will this new rule change affect mules worldwide? We will have to wait and see. I really thought that in the United Kingdom I would now see a change in the equestrian world and see the popularity of mules increase. The owner and rider of Wallace the Great did a fantastic job promoting mules and they received so much attention and publicity nationwide. If I have any more news, I’ll certainly be letting you know.