Theo Plugmakers, President of the European Equestrian Federation (EEF) since November 2018, visited the Longines International Equestrian Center in Deauville last Friday to present the new CSIO 3*, the Longines EEF Series Semi-Final, which will be organized by GRANDPRIX Events from 23 to 26 June in Normandy. An opportunity for the Dutchman to promote this new European Nations Cup series, born in 2020 and launched last year, to welcome the participation of France, the world’s first equestrian power, as well as express his opinion on the situation in Ukraine and announce his candidacy for the presidency of the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI), which will be returned to the game in November next year.
What does the Longines EEF Series represent for you, the European Nations Cup series that you are the initiator and which replaced the former European Division 2 of the FEI Longines circuit in 2020?
The Longines EEF series means almost everything to me. When I became President of the European Equestrian Federation (in November 2018 after presiding over the Federation of the Netherlands, ed.), I meant that the Longines European Division 2 created by the International Equestrian Federation was not a good concept and that we should have done something better for our European nations, regardless of their level. Since then, my main goal has been to create a series of exceptional competitions in which all the countries of our continent could compete. The Longines EEF series is still linked to the FEI Longines circuit as the country that wins our final is the last to advance to the European division. We implemented this project last year, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the season was not completed. This year should be normal, which I am very happy about.
What are the prospects for the development of this scheme?
We have signed a ten-year contract with our partner Longines, which allows us to consider it in the long term. In addition, we are currently working on a new 1* and 2* CSIO scheme in parallel with the existing series, so that countries that cannot yet participate in them can strengthen their teams to participate in the coming years.
Why was it important to you that France host the stage, which will also be a circuit semi-final?
According to the rules of the Longines EEF Series, Europe is divided into four main regions. There are two qualifying rounds for each, allowing the top five teams to advance to the semi-finals, played here in Deauville and Budapest, before the final in Warsaw scheduled for 8-11 September. As for France, which remains the leading equestrian federation in the world, it seemed clear to us that it would host a major event. And we are glad that this is happening in Deauville, in Normandy.
“The situation in Ukraine is really very difficult”
What role does the European Equestrian Federation play in Ukraine, where horses are collateral casualties of Russia’s war?
It’s really terrible. The complexity of the situation is very difficult to describe, because we do not even know exactly what is happening there. Some owners drove their horses and ran out of food, but no one knows for how long. In the beginning, many participants in European solidarity sent straw and food, but a more sustainable organization needs to be built, because this situation can continue for months. We look forward to a clear discussion next week (interview conducted last Friday, ed.)and hope that it will be possible to create a structure for better management of logistics. This project requires a lot of money. If only the food, the cost could quickly rise to several hundred thousand euros. Several sites in Western Europe have proposed housing equids in safer areas, but how to implement this initiative in the long term? What if the owners need their land back? Should these helping stables take care of everything financially or should we also pay them? The situation is really very difficult. Everyone is involved, including emotionally, but so far nothing is organized enough, so we are exploring solutions that could be envisaged.
What does Ukrainian horse breeding need? How can the rest of the European equestrian community help him?
A week ago, I received a list of their needs: straw, feed, special feed for older horses, such as veterinary equipment, fire extinguishers, etc. In the east-west migration of the country’s horses, removable boxes are required, since there is no infrastructure to accommodate them. This represents a significant cost. The material is really needed.
The FEI Sports Forum will take place on 24 and 25 April in Lausanne. Important points regarding the regulations and conditions for the participation of athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be discussed. In this regard, do you think the WEF will be able to make progress, for example, return, at least partially, score dropnot counting the team’s lowest score when calculating the total points?
No, the people who want this return score drop already lost. The rest of the world decided so (Voting organized at previous FEI General Meetings, ed.)…
The position of President of the International Equestrian Federation will take effect at the organization’s next general assembly in November in Cape Town. Will you be a candidate for this position or will the WEF support the application?
(Laughs) Yes, I will be a candidate.