By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

May 23 - Princess Haya's postion as President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) is to be challenged later this year by Sweden's Sven Holmberg and Holland's Henk Rottinghuis, a sign of the lack of confidence among leading European nations in her leadership.

It will be the first time that a President has ever faced a challenge when standing for re-election.

The Swedish Equestrian Federation (SEF) has nominated Holmberg, who is currently first vice-president of the FEI, a position he has held since 2006, while the Dutch Equestrian Federation have put forward Rottinghuis, its former vice-chairman.

The election will be held in November when the 130 member-nations of the Switzerland-based organisation gather in Chinese Taipei for its annual General Assembly.

Princess Haya, one of the wives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, had announced in March that she planned to stand for a second term.

Holmberg, who is also chairman of the FEI's International Jumping Committee, said he was honoured by the nomination and the support for it, which extended beyond Sweden.

Holmberg has been active in the equestrian world, both as a judge and tournament organiser at international competitions, and has held elected office, in Sweden and internationally, for many years.

"I have gained a great experience and now have several things on the agenda I want to change and improve in the International Equestrian Federation's work," he said.

"Equestrianism needs to unite around common values, where the horse's welfare is central."

Holmberg has called for greater co-operation between countries, working towards an improved understanding of how the world looks at equestrian sport.

"There is a tendency toward a crisis of confidence between different parts of the equestrian world and I want to keep riding together so we can share each other's experiences, share our knowledge and get a well-functioning international organisation," he said.

Holmberg (pictured) has been an outspoken critic of controversial moves at the FEI General Assembly in Copenhagen last year to move toward a so-called progressive list of drugs that would allow low levels of common anti-inflammatory drugs in competition horses.

"It's really quite impossible for me to go down that road," he said.

That debate, he said, was a determining factor in making the decision to stand as a candidate for President.

Swedish Equestrian Federation President Bo Helander said: "Sven Holmberg enjoys the confidence of the equestrian world and, with his experience from boardrooms to arenas, would be an outstanding President of the FEI."

Rottinghuis is a member of the FEI’s Compliance and Audit Committee, who restructured the Dutch federation in 2001.

The Harvard-gradudated businessman recently stood down from being chief executive and chairman of one of the world’s bigger family-run international businesses.

Dutch-based Pon Holdings, an international distribution and trading company with 12,000 employees spanning 15 markets in different continents.

Under his 17-year career with Pon Holdings the business quadrupled in size.

Rottinghuis (pictured), 54, claims to have been approached by several national federations to stand.

He said: “I am humbled, honoured and energised by the confidence that different stakeholders, across horse sport and around the world, have shown in urging me to seek the post of FEI President.

"The President is the figurehead of the FEI but the national federations are the FEI.

"It is only with them and other stakeholders including riders, owners, organisers, officials and sponsors, that the success of the FEI can be guaranteed.

"My campaign for the Presidency, and if elected the Presidency itself, will reflect and never forget that fundamental belief."

Princess Haya was elected in 2006, succeeding The Infanta Dona Pilar, who served for 12 years.

Before that, Prince Philip served for 22 years and the Princess Royal for eight.

Rules now limit presidents to two four-year terms.

The 36-year-old Princess, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, has been heavily criticised for intervening over the Beijing Olympic cross-country course and disbanding the FEI dressage committee soon after.

Although she drove through key clean sport measures, the late proposals to allow non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) in competition were criticised as undermining the campaign.

The row partly prompted the formation of the European Equestrian Federation, whose 40 members opposed NSAIDs.

The Princess was also key in decisions that led to Britain being relegated from the Nations Cup Super League, which was later overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Princess must win a two-thirds majority of 133 member federation votes.

She said: "An election that focuses on ways to strengthen, improve and unify our federation is good for the FEI and our sport."

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