New Zealand eventer Joe Meyer and Ease on Fire at Burghley last year. © Jan Milne
Figures released from British Eventing this week show that the percentage risk of serious injury is reduced to just 0.07%; considerably lower than in many other activities such as motorsports, cycling and fishing.
British Eventing describes horse trials as "the ultimate equestrian triathlon of Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country", and says that following "rigorous safety improvements incorporated following non-stop research and data analysis, competitors are at far less risk from injury."
"In total, from July 2002 to June 2008, a staggering 6.3 million cross country fences have been jumped by 316,217 riders on British Eventing affiliated courses throughout the UK," said BE's National Safety Officer, Jonathan Clissold.
"But there have been 406 serious falls; including, tragically, four fatal falls, many from the horse falling on top of the rider."
In its quest to stamp out serious injuries, British Eventing started collecting and analysing data from all its courses back in 2002, looking at how horses jumped each type of fence, to see if any patterns emerged. Fence-types were profiled and catalogued and Technical Advisers started logging individual fence data.
Technical advisers are responsible for technical safety, preparatory arrangements and successful running of the events to which they are deployed. In practice they will liaise closely with the Event Organisers, BE Stewards, Regional Directors, officials, competitors, owners and the Chief Executive so as to ensure that their events fully comply with the official Rules and Guidelines for holding BE Events.
In 2002, more than 44,960 riders and horses left the cross-country start box at 133 events and 108 falls were classed as serious.
"Compared to the current safety year (July 1 through to June 30*), there has been a 43% increase in cross country starters to over 64,400 as more and more riders take up Eventing," Clissold said. "Following demand, BE added a further 33% (180) more competitions to the Event Fixture List.
"The success story here is that the total number of serious injuries in affiliated classes has fallen to less than half that of 2002, with just 48 serious falls in a year when there was a huge 43% increase in participants."
British Eventing Chief Executive and Beijing Olympic course designer, Mike Etherington-Smith says: "We are proud of what British Eventing has achieved in the sport so far, but we want to take our research and development even further."
"We will continue to strive to a position of fewer injuries whilst still maintaining the integrity of the sport that competitors enjoy so much. To this end we have invested more time, money and resources into the areas addressed in our Safety Manifesto, Changing Tracks, and are fully committed to it for the foreseeable future."
Changing Tracks is to be unveiled at Safety Roadshows later this month.
* The Safety Year for BE data collection runs from July 1 through to June 30. This is so that figures can be analysed part-way through a season to identify any issues, and most importantly, make changes as needed.
BE Safety Roadshows
Scottish and Northern Region - Monday 20th July
The SNEC, Oatridge College, Ecclesmachan, Broxburn, West Lothian, EH52 6NH.
Central South Region - Wednesday 22nd July
Huntingdon Marriott Hotel, Kingfisher Way, Hinchingbrooke Business Park, Huntingdon, PE29 6FL.
Central North and Wales Region - Tuesday 28th July
Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Leahurst, Chester High Road, South Wirral, CH64 7TE.
Southern Region - Thursday 30th July
Wiltshire College Lackham, Lacock, WIltshire, SN15 2NY.
The Roadshows are open to both members and non-members. To book your free place, please call Carolyn Simm at British Eventing on 02476 698821 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org