The UIPM is set to rid of the riding discipline for the modern pentathlon ©Getty Images

Horse riding is set to be dropped from the modern pentathlon programme following the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, a source with knowledge of the situation has told insidethegames

The International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) Executive Board held a meeting this week in which a vote to remove riding from the programme was passed, insidethegames has been told.

When contacted with this information, the UIPM did not deny the reports and said it would issue a statement on Thursday (November 4).

It offered an exclusive interview for insidethegames to not run the story.

It is believed that the UIPM could replace horse riding with cycling. 

The decision, which was made at a secret meeting in which not every Executive Board member was present, comes following a controversial riding session at the rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo earlier this year. 

Several horses refused to jump, including Saint-Boy, ridden by Germany’s Annika Schleu, who was leading the competition entering the riding event. 

German coach Kim Raisner was sent home following video footage showing her punching Saint-Boy, while Schleu was criticised for repeatedly whipping the distressed horse.

A UIPM Disciplinary Panel, set up to investigate the incident and review the UIPM’s punishment of Raisner, found Raisner had violated Rule 4.6.8 - which states a "pentathlete or team is disqualified for rapping or beating a horse and all other cases of cruelty and/or ill treatment of a horse" - and upheld the decision to expel the coach from Tokyo 2020.

Saint-Boy refused to jump for then competition leader Annika Schleu at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images
Saint-Boy refused to jump for then competition leader Annika Schleu at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

The UIPM also set up a Riding Working Group to investigate horse welfare in modern pentathlon.

The 10-strong Riding Working Group, led by Poland’s Janusz Peciak, who is a UIPM EB member and chairman of the UIPM Technical Committee, was due to give their recommendations to an EB meeting in Monaco in November, before the changes are put to the UIPM Congress, due to take place from November 26 to 28.

At present, modern pentathlon riders are randomly assigned a horse and meet it only 20 minutes before going out to jump.

Alongside rule changes that have diminished the need for high-quality riding, with athletes focusing on other disciplines, this has led to some chaotic riding elements in past competitions. 

UIPM President Dr Klaus Schormann previously described the Tokyo 2020 horse-abuse scandal as a "vital learning moment".

"The issues that arose during the riding competition of the women’s final in Tokyo demanded swift and significant reflection and remedy," Schormann wrote in an exclusive blog for insidethegames.

"Within days, the UIPM had introduced new measures to improve horse welfare in our sport. 

"A working group of the foremost experts has since been established and has set about exploring and addressing both the incidents during the women’s final and the proposed changes.

"As much as the incidents themselves were tough for our sport, the process of listening, learning and evolving and adapting to meet not just the moment but all those to come has been a positive experience. 

"As I said at the time, UIPM remains fully committed to riding as an integral part of the modern pentathlon based on the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin and we look forward to doing so in an even safer, more secure way."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called for all equestrian disciplines to be removed from the Olympics outright.

"Just as the Olympics evolved to include sports that are of current interest - like skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing - in a world that increasingly refuses to accept abuse in any form, it’s time to remove sports that are no longer supported by the public," PETA's senior vice-president of the equine matters department, Kathy Guillermo, wrote in an open letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

The riding discipline of the modern pentathlon has come under scrutiny due to horse welfare following Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
The riding discipline of the modern pentathlon has come under scrutiny due to horse welfare following Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Modern pentathlon was introduced at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, comprising pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, horse riding and running, which embraced the spirit of a competition that appeared in the Ancient Olympics. 

That consisted of running the length of the stadium, jumping, throwing the spear, throwing the discus and wrestling.

It was considered to be the climax of the Ancient Games, with the winner ranked as "Victor Ludorum".

This would be the latest in a long line of recent changes the UIPM has made to modern pentathlon competition in an attempt to keep the sport relevant.

Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, believed that the modern pentathlon "tested a man’s moral qualities as much as his physical resources and skills, producing thereby the ideal, complete athlete".

From 1912 to 1980, the competition was held over five days, before it was reduced to four days over the next three Olympics until Barcelona 1992.

At Atlanta 1996, competition was squeezed into one day, with women competing in the event for the first time at Sydney 2000.

In 2008, the UIPM combined the running and shooting disciplines, with the change implemented at the Olympics for the first time in London in 2012. 

Now held across four events and five disciplines and using laser pistols instead of air pistols, the event finished with a combined run and shoot, with competitors delayed over a staggered start based on the points accrued from the previous three elements - riding, swimming and fencing.

Viewer numbers have been at or near the bottom of all events at recent Olympic Games, and the UIPM had ushered in a 90-minute format for Paris 2024 to make the sport more watchable in an effort to appeal to a younger generation.

It remains to be seen how riding being dropped will impact this new format.