Has eventing gotten safer? Not that I’ve noticed.

Last year there was a lot of talk about how to improve the overall safety of the sport. There were meetings. There was publicity about frangible pins. People talked about the relative safety of the long and short formats.

Then you see a photo like this one published. There is a series of photos posted by the photographer, Paul Rainford, that shows the whole fall in slow motion.

Faith Cook and Naigor suffered a rotational fall at the Branham CCI*. Luckily they will both be fine.
Faith Cook and Naigor de la Roche suffered a rotational fall at the Branham CCI*. Luckily they will both be fine. Photo: Paul Rainford Photography

Another rotational fall that could have been prevented by using a frangible pin. This fall happened at the Bramham CCI*. The good news is that Faith Cook will be okay. She has two broken bones in her back and neck but no damage to her spinal cord. Her horse, Naigor de la Roche, walked away with bruises.

Others this year have not been so fortunate. In April, Ian Olding, a 47-year old experienced eventer was killed at Belton Horse Trials after his horse, Gran-Kiki, flipped over a table. This is a fence where a frangible pin would not have made a difference.

In May Phillip Dutton had a rotational fall at Jersey Fresh on Bailey Wick. While Phillip walked away, the horse had to be humanely destroyed. While it is likely that his neck was broken, his owners chose not to have a necropsy performed. In this case, the back rail of the oxer had a frangible pin, but the front rail did not. The horse chested the fence and rotated. Six months earlier, at Fair Hill, Dutton had a rotational fall with Loose ‘n Cool, although neither was injured.

I know that work is going on behind the scenes to study safety and to minimize the conditions that lead to fatalities. It seems though, that fence construction and the design of courses that ride more safely would be a good place to start. And soon.

A few additions — I received a comment from Paul Rainford, the photographer who took these photos. While they appear in the comments, I’m putting them here as well as he provides additional insight:

With regards to frangible pins, I did actually discuss this with the course designer later in the day as she came to look at my pictures. The use of pins had been discussed by the team at Bramham, but it was decided that pins were not needed for this fence.

Also, I actually think that if the fence had been put together with frangible pins, then the fall may have been worse, as the horse would still have fallen, but actually landed on Faith.

This is, however, just my opinion.

Paul

4 thoughts on “Has eventing gotten safer? Not that I’ve noticed.

  1. With regards to frangible pins, I did actually discuss this with the course designer later in the day as she came to look at my pictures. The use of pins had been discussed by the team at Bramham, but it was decided that pins were not needed for this fence.

    Also, I actually think that if the fence had been put together with frangible pins, then the fall may have been worse, as the horse would still have fallen, but actually landed on Faith.

    This is, however, just my opinion.

    Paul

  2. Great post. I agree that the pins would definitely help, but I think part of the problem is the usage of really tight times allowed. I’ve watched a lot of events where only one or two riders came in under the time allowed, and they put their own safety at risk to do so. I think that using a frangible pin and more reasonable allowed times in combination would really help with safety. A blue ribbon means nothing if you and/or your horse are dead.

  3. A key issue remains the inconsistancy in the courses and designs…and the unrealistic jump combinations. Some courses are really hard… the CCI ** at Galway downs claimed the life of a rider in 2006 and has consistantly had 30-40% of the entries not finish…. year after year…. While the CCI** at Rebecca Farms had all but two complete this year and most made time.

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