Higher placed eventers more likely to fall on cross-country – study

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© Jane Thompson
British research has found that riders in a top three position are more likely to fall on the cross-country than those in lower placings in a one-day-event. © Jane Thompson

Horse and rider combinations in leading positions at the start of the cross country phase of one-day events are at greater risk of falls, British research shows.

Myerscough College researchers Heather Cameron-Whytock and Charlotte Brigden presented the findings of their research to delegates at the recent International Equitation Science Conference in Denmark.

The pair set about exploring risk factors for horse falls in the cross-country phase of one-day events, which is recognised as a high-risk sport and associated with higher levels of fatalities and serious injuries than sports such as motorsport and rugby.

They collected data from 2002 horse-and-rider combinations in the novice, intermediate and advanced levels of 37 randomly selected British Eventing horse trials competitions from 2003 to 2012.

Cross-country jumps near the show rings. © Jane Thompson
© Jane Thompson

A self-administered online questionnaire was also used to collect rider and spectator perspectives on eventing horse falls. Questions covered the participants’ experiences of falls, either as a rider or spectator, and their opinions of the causes of horse falls and suggestions for safety improvements.

Falls occurred in 4.78 percent of cross country starts, amounting to 96 falls from the 2002 starts.

The horse-and-rider combination’s position before the cross country was found to be the only significant predictor of horse falls, the researchers found.

Competitors in a top three position before cross country were significantly more likely to have a horse fall than any other position.

For example, riders in 4th to 10th position were 0.49 times less likely to have a fall than those in first to third positions. Cameron-Whytock and Brigden Riders postulated that riders in a more competitive position at the start of the cross country phase may have a tendency to take more risks or ride in a faster or more intense manner.

“Improved rider skill and understanding may be an approach to help reduce risks of falls in the future,” they said.

“It could also be considered whether placings should be concealed until after the cross country phase.”

Of the 131 questionnaire respondents, more than half of whom were riders, 74 percent said they believed the main risk factor for a horse fall was rider error, followed closely by rider inexperience, put at 65 percent.

Speed was also identified as a key risk by respondents.

Riders were significantly more likely to attribute horse falls to rider error than spectators.

Improved rider skill and understanding may help to reduce risks faced by horse and rider, they concluded.

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