April 28, 2008


A frangible fence.

The US Eventing Association Eventing Standards Task Force is pushing to make frangible pins compulsory for all cross-country courses in the US.

The move follows the serious injury or death of several riders and horses in the sport recently. Frangible pins allow a jump to collapse if it is hit by a horse. The frangible pin, manufactured by Barriers International, was the product of a study conducted in 2001 by Britain's Transport Research Laboratory after a number of fatalities in Britain in 1999. British Eventing piloted the use of the pins in 2002 and they were introduced into US courses shortly thereafter.

The Task Force put forward a rule change to Rule EV141.8 (USEF Rules for Eventing) that will require the use of frangible pin technology on all obstacles for which it is appropriate. The move has been endorsed by the USEA Executive Committee.

The USEA said that frangible pins were used on cross-country fences at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Despite this, two horses died as a result of injuries sustained in falls on the cross-country.

During testing in the UK, pins were broken twice in the 2002 season, and on both occasions, serious injury to both horse and rider was averted.

The first break was at Weston Park Prelim at the first rail of a rail-ditch-rail combination: The horse took off from a standstill. Momentum carried the horse over the fence to the critical position of downward pressure on the rail. The pin sheared at the point when downward pressure reached the pre-determined maximum. The rider was thrown free; horse was restricted to take-off side of the fence. The horse walked away uninjured. Fence repair crew replaced the pin in under 1.5 minutes and the course was not held. The horse and rider were fit to continue, but were awarded the appropriate penalties and compulsory retirement.

The second break was at Boekolo CCI***; a tired horse failed to make the back rail of an oxer. Both pins broke and both horse and rider escaped unharmed from an incident that eye-witness accounts suggested would have resulted in significant injury has the pins not been in use.

Educational seminars on the frangible pins have been on the programme at the USEA Convention over the last two years and one will again be held in December in New Orleans.

While the pin has always been recommended for use in cross-country fence building where appropriate, and while organizers have responded willingly to that recommendation, the pin has never been mandated as initially they were not readily available in the US.

Certification is required for anyone planning to install the frangible pins. The USEA is in the process of scheduling a series of seminars on course design and course building which will include hands-on training and certification for all participants planning to install frangible pins.