A new eventing season .. hurrah

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The eventing season is building momentum both here and in the Northern Hemisphere. I can hardly wait.

There’s nothing like a tragic accident to either a horse or rider to liven up a dull news day, usually a Monday or Tuesday, after the weekend’s carnage is revealed in the light of day.

A quick look down our list of horse and rider casualties shows that injuries to mount and man (and woman) occur throughout the world in virtually every month of the year. There is no let-up, though no riders have died for their sport since Irish eventer Ian Olding last April. Our list is not official and probably not exhaustive, though we’re working on it.  Since 2007 we’ve noted 22 rider fatalities, and more than 30 horse deaths. (What sporting organisation publicises their casualties, unless it has to?)

Chummin, pictured here with rider Lisa Peecook, collapsed and died between jumps on a US cross country late last year.
Chummin, pictured here with rider Lisa Peecook, collapsed and died between jumps on a US cross country late last year. © US Eventing

We’ve also written plenty about eventing safety and the new measures being introduced to stem the number of deaths and injuries. But the numbers don’t really suggest that much progress is being made. There are copious mind-numbing statistics available on the number of obstacles jumped and the number of riders and competitions. But the bottom line showing deaths and injuries remains, to me, anyway, unacceptable.

So what is the answer?

Sure, there are new jump designs being introduced to make rotational falls  less likely. Some jumps will break away when hit by a horse, thus preventing somersault injuries. That’s a good start.

Education on safe riding is part of the FEI’s action plan to reduce accidents, and guidelines on cross-country course design to minimise risk have also been recommended.

But tell that to a rider galloping helter-skelter to make the finish line in the allotted time on a flagging mount, whose ranking, livelihood, and future quite possibly depend on a good placing.

And never mind the jumps – too many event horses have died in recent years without an obstacle being involved.

Frankly, I’d like to see some sort of metabolic measurement added to eventing. Something like how endurance horses are vet checked after each distance loop for heart rate, dehydration, soundness (not just the legs), and so on.

If the horse’s heart rate is too high after the cross-country, and fails to drop to a reasonable level, they’re out. An elevated heart rate can suggest many issues, most notably fitness.

But I doubt such changes would get traction. Imagine the cost.

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7 thoughts on “A new eventing season .. hurrah

  • March 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm
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    The cost of checking a heart rate?? I think its a good idea, not expensive at all.

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  • March 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm
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    I agree it should not be, but I am sure the FEI and NFs would find a way to add more charges to competitors and organisers …

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  • March 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm
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    There used to be a vet check between phases C and D of the old long format cross country test. So there is a precedent for a vet check on the fitness and health of a horse before tackling the cross country jumps. It would seem a simple thing to add this to the end of a jumps course of the current cross country format if it could made a difference to the awful stats on eventing horses deaths.

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  • March 18, 2010 at 7:23 pm
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    The sport is off to a rocky year… again… unfortunately the stats of falls at upper levels are not tracked in the US separately from all starters…

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  • March 22, 2010 at 8:06 am
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    Bring back the roads and tracks – not only did it warm up the horses well it meant thy generally had to be much fitter therefore less chance of being tired on X country.

    A tired horse makes mistakes.

    Heart rate checks ensure that only the fit continue

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  • March 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm
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    I’ve been concerned by the number of accidents to senior riders at HoY last week. It’s not only horses that get tired – riders often underestimate the effects of riding in the heat, and dehydration which can lead to poor decision-making. And I always wonder about soundness where horses can be drugged to make it possible to compete when there is a lot of money, or reputation at stake.

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