The Quiet Man and Sarah Hansel fall at fence 13 at the Kentucky three-day-event in April 2008. The Quiet Man was later euthanised. © Tom Eblen/Lexington Herald-Leader

May 9, 2008

With horse and rider deaths and injuries reaching alarming levels in the sport of eventing, a study into the accidents and injuries sustained by riders during horse trials events is being undertaken by FEI Medical Officer Dr Craig Ferrell.

Dr Ferrell is also researching head injuries and body protection. The research is being conducted after being discussed at the FEI's Safety Forum in January, and was approved by the FEI's Bureau Meeting in Interlaken last month.

A programme to look at deformable structures is under way by the British Federation, and the FEI is looking at "the different possibilities".

Deformable or frangible structures are being introduced into some courses, but most obstacles are solid, which means a horse hitting a jump can lead to a rotational fall, or a somersault.

At the recent Kentucky three-day-event two horses died from injuries sustained from hitting jumps. Some of the obstacles on the course were frangible, but jumps five and thirteen, which claimed Frodo Baggins and The Quiet Man, did not use frangible pins. "Under the recommendations and guidelines for use of frangible pins, neither obstacle met the criteria for use of frangible pins as a safety enhancement," according to the event's organisers.

The FEI's safety forum also recommended that there be improved communication on safety, and a training and education for safety programme for riders was being prepared. Course Designer standards for education are also in the process of being developed.

The rules of eventing are also under revision, with safety a priority.

A final proposal regarding rules is to be presented at the General Assembly in November 2008 for approval. The main amendments of the rules refer to several key points, including: the introduction of a new 5 star category: all current eventing star levels would move up, and a new 1 star eventing category for low level competition be created; horse inspections at all levels and categories; warning cards to be further developed with Legal Department and FEI Tribunal. The sanction system needed to integrate the dangerous riding concept and safety aspects.