The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics could see all equestrian teams reduced to three riders, if new format changes approved at the FEI General Assembly are given the go-ahead.

National Federations voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed format changes, which will go to the International Olympic Committee Executive Board for final approval next year.

In Rio there was four members per team in the dressage, showjumping and eventing disciplines, with a team of four plus an individual in the Paralympic dressage.

At these Games, the best three scores counted, with those teams fielding four riders having a discounted ‘drop score’. But now the premise of a drop score could vanish – putting more pressure on teams to finish at all costs.

In dressage, a poor performance usually means a lower team score, but in jumping and especially eventing, eliminations are more commonplace, which could mean increasingly fewer teams complete the competition.

An FEI statement released today (22 November) makes it clear that the concept of having a reserve combination will remain – and will be “a key element in ensuring horse welfare.”

The issue of equestrianism’s place in the Games is often up for debate, and the governing body is acting to ensure that the sport retains its position as part of the Olympics and Paralympics.

“This was a really important vote for the future of our sport if we are to increase universality in accordance with the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020,” said FEI President Ingmar De Vos.

“We need to increase the number of participating nations at the Olympic Games but within our existing quota of 200. Reducing team members to three per nation was probably the only way to boost the number of flags. “Of course this now has to be approved by the IOC, but it opens the door to countries that previously could only see the Olympics as a distant dream.

“There were some National Federations that didn’t agree with the proposal, but that’s all part of the democratic process. Now we need to work together to make this a success.”

As well as the proposed reduction in the number of riders per team, other suggested changes include reducing the time spent on eventing’s dressage phase from two days to one.

To read the full rule changes, click here.