Oliver Townend, who won both Badminton and Burghley in 2009 had his hopes of winning eventing’s Triple Crown cut short after a nasty rotational fall at The Hollow at Rolex. His horse, Ashdale Cruise Master, caught a leg on the first element and fell right on top of Townend. Here’s the good news: Townend will be fine. He suffered cracks to his collar bone, ribs and chest bone but nothing more seriously. His horse is also fine.
However, the fence and the fall (there were two other falls at this fence) raise questions. Although this fence had a frangible pin, it did not come down. In fact, it shows some of the limitations of the pins — if the horse hits the fence in a way that it is in the line of motion, the pins do not shear. I read this explanation on a thread in the Chronicle of the Horse Forums.
The frangible pin is designed to break only when the rail/log is hit with a threshold force at a certain range of angles.
Specifically, the pin was designed to prevent a horse from crushing the rider in a slow rotational fall, as slow rotational falls were identified as the most dangerous type of accident. The pin breaks as the horse rotates up and over, changing the trajectory of the falling horse, causing it to drop down rather than continue rotating. The rider continues on the original trajectory.
Ollie Townend was also wearing one of the inflatable vests, but because of the way he and the horse fell, it didn’t deploy until after he hit the ground. To activate the inflation mechanism on these vests the rider needs to separate from the horse. In fact, even if the vest had inflated right away the vest would not have protected him from the injuries he sustained as those vests are not designed in a way that can prevent injuries caused by crushing.
Below is video that shows Ollie Townend’s fall and also the problems that other riders had at this combination. Although all the riders and horses were fine, the video is upsetting to watch so be forewarned.