With the spotlight focused on the safety of eventing, it is critical that the ambassadors of our sport — course designers, trainers, equestrian organizations, and riders — take all steps that can prevent injuries to both riders and horses.
There is some progress.
For example, at the Olympics, there was a last minute change to fence #18, the Stone Forest, after it was inspected by FEI president Princess Haya. The course had already been approved by the ground jury, but several team managers had approached Princess Haya with concerns about the jump. She requested that designer Mike Etherington-Smith move the boulders in front of the jump as she felt they could be dangerous if a horse got their footing wrong. Etherington-Smith was not pleased with the last minute change, but I think that proactively making the course safer was a smart move given the visibility of the Olympics and the current focus on the sport’s safety record.
Building a Better Cross Country Jump
Another way to improve the safety of cross country jumps is to use safer materials. Two Olympic eventing veterans have formed a company with that purpose in mind. Safer Building Materials, Inc., founded by Mike Winter and Kyle Carter have introduced frangible cross country jump logs made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) that are designed to increase safety when jumping horses over fixed obstacles. PROLOGS™ absorb energy in the event of horse impact and are frangible when hit with enough force and/or velocity.
PROLOGS™ jumps debuted at the Canadian Eventing Team mandatory Olympic short-list outing at the Florida Horse Park on the weekend of July 12-13, 2008 to excellent reviews. The company currently offers several size/color logs for sale and plans to soon offer a full line of jumps including walls, “mushrooms”, and other custom designed frangible cross country jump obstacles.