Whenever I see a large jump in views on my blog, my heart sinks. Usually it means that there has been a rotational fall somewhere in the world (my post, What is a Rotational Fall and How can They be Prevented) has high Google rankings.
Sadly, yesterday that prediction came true. Thirteen-year old Ashley Stout and her horse, Avant Gard (Grady), both died while schooling cross country as the result of a rotational fall. My heart goes out to her family and friends. As a parent, I can’t even imagine the pain they are feeling.
Ashley was a talented rider, riding at a level where she was comfortable, jumping a fence she had cleared successfully many times. She was wearing appropriate safety equipment and she and her horse had campaigned successfully, having no cross country penalties in their 15 USEA starts. In June she won the Junior/Young Rider Open Training division at the NJ Region’s H.T. and finished second in the Prelim/Training division at the Bucks County Horse Park H.T. Ashley was preparing to represent Area II Young Rider Training Three-Day Team at The Event at Rebecca Farm later this month.
She was a talented rider, as you can tell from this helmet cam video. The USEA Area II Young Rider program is promoting the use of the hashtag #ride4Ashley in her memory.
The Most Dangerous Olympic Sport
Although much has been done to improve the safety of eventing — including the use of frangible pins, which allow “solid” fences to come down if hit hard enough to break a pin — it’s still considered to be the most dangerous Olympic sport.
FEI statistics on eventing safety released in March of 2019 (covering 2007-2018) show significantly reduced numbers of rotational falls, but that number is still too high. One in six riders involved in with rotational falls suffer serious injuries.
Fall Statistics (emphasis in bold is mine)
- For 2018, the overall percentage of falls (5.37%) is slightly higher than 2017 (5.34%), it is lower than the 2007-2018 average of 5.46%.
- The number of falls on the flat has increased for 2018, passing from 15.99% in 2017 to 19.50% in 2018. The average over the period is of 10.19%.
- The average for the period is of 3.87 unseated riders for every 100 starters (1 unseated rider every 26 starters) and 1.58 horse falls for every 100 starters (1 horse fall every 63 starters).
- The distribution of falls per competition format shows an established trend with a higher percentage of falls in Long format (CCI) with an average for the period of 4.96% for Short format (CIC) and 6.37% for Long format (CCI).
- Figures for 2018 show a decrease of the percentage of unseated riders. Horse falls have increased from 1.38% in 2017 to 1.55 % in 2018.
- The percentage of horse falls remains below the average of the period.
- The percentage of rotational horse falls (higher risk of injuries for horse and rider) has decreased from 0.44 horse fall every 100 starters (1 rotational horse fall every 228 starters) in 2007 to 0.13 rotational horse fall every 100 starters (1 rotational horse fall every 746 starters) in 2018.
- Figures for 2018 show a decrease of unseated riders. Horse falls have increased compared to 2017. The percentage of horse falls is below the average of the period.
- Relating the risk of an injury to the number of fences jumped the average of the period shows a risk of a serious injury every 16,868 fences jumped.
- Average values for the period indicate 4.92% falls with no injury every 100 starters (1 fall with no injury every 20 starters), 0.35 % falls with slight injury every 100 starters (1 fall with slight injury every 284 starters), 0.18 % falls with serious injury every 100 starters (1 fall with serious injury every 544 starters) and a 0.0058 % fatal falls every 100 starters (1 fatal fall every 17,367 starters)
- The relative risk factors for the different types of falls show clearly that the risk of having a serious injury changes dramatically from the unseated rider for whom, as an average of the period, the risk of having a serious injury is once every 55 falls to the rotational horse falls where the average risk of a serious injury is once every 6 falls.
While many newspaper reports have called this a “freak accident”, the problem is — it isn’t. Rotational falls remain one of the most challenging problems of eventing. Yes, the numbers are coming down. But how can we bring them down even further?
Please, let there be no more hashtags in memory of riders, especially for children.