THE “landmark decision” taken this week to replace equestrianism with obstacle racing in the modern pentathlon at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris might, on the face of it, appear to be a relatively unimportant call.

The move came in the aftermath of a German coach being seen to punch a horse for refusing to jump a fence at the Tokyo Olympics, the rider having entered this phase of the competition in the gold medal position.

The horses used at the Games were all sourced locally, and this process was in need of possible overhaul.

Horses are allotted to riders in a ballot, and few suffered as much in Tokyo from ‘the (bad) luck of the draw’ than Ireland’s Natalya Coyle. She finished 24th overall following a disastrous round of show jumping which saw her drop from fourth to 19th.

A noted equestrienne, Coyle’s skill was not enough to prevent her mount, a problem from the start, knocking the fourth and refusing at both the ninth and 10th fences.

The Co Meath athlete was competing at her third Olympics, finishing ninth in London and sixth at the 2016 Rio Games. After the event last year she, emotionally, said: “It is really disappointing. It is not how I wanted to end my career.”

Now it would seem that the modern pentathlon, introduced to the Olympics as a core event in 1912 after it was conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is to bow to external calls - and as a result of poor management by the sport’s official body – and adapt itself to appeal to a television audience.

The move is thought to be opposed by 95% of the sport’s active members, who have singularly been ignored while the consultation process to decide on a fifth discipline was being carried out.

What worries me is that this is another example of bowing to pressure, much of which is calling for radical changes in how sports that involve horses are held. The problems in Tokyo were to do with how horses were chosen. Imagine sending all the best show jumpers, dressage riders and eventers to the Olympics and their mounts would be decided by drawing lots? Unthinkable.

Yes, the optics in Tokyo were bad, but should the actions of one coach be allowed to spark a huge, fundamental change in a sport that has been competed for at the Games for more than a century?

I believe that it shouldn’t, and the members of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne should hang their heads in shame for the current debacle.

Other equine and equestrian sports should also take heed.