New frangible device standards balance “safety with true cross-country”

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An updated standard for the frangible devices used in the cross-country phase of eventing has been approved.

The Updated Standard V2 has been released by Britain’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) following six months of work initiated by the Eventing Frangible Device Working Group of Dave Vos, Geoff Sinclair, Mark Phillips and Jonathan Clissold.

During the six months, the group filmed fences being jumped at many events and reviewed them in slow motion. Broad testing was also carried out by British Eventing and MIM at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, as well as testing by TRL. The Updated Standard V2 has been endorsed by the Eventing Committee as well as the Risk Management Steering Group, and is being implemented progressively.

As of January 1, 2021, all newly manufactured devices must comply with the Updated Standard V2. Devices manufactured according to the previous standard specifications can be used until December 31, 2021. Updates or adjustments may be needed on these products.

Frangible devices allow cross-country fences to collapse under both forward and upward pressure and are designed to prevent rotational falls, which can cause serious injuries to horses and riders. Several horses and riders in recent years have lost their lives in such falls.

At all levels, all open oxers, open corners, verticals or near verticals with open rails, top rail on triple bars and gates where the rail dimensions and weight fit the acceptable parameters of an FEI approved frangible device, must be fitted with frangible devices.

An MIM Clip on a portable triple bar.
An MIM Clip on a portable triple bar. © FEI Eventing

The Updated Standard V2 for frangible/deformable cross-country fences includes the following changes:

• Introduction of a 40kg kettlebell pendulum test to better represent a ‘hanging leg’ impact scenario to reproduce severe impact on the fence with some leading to rotational falls which frangible fences should help mitigate.

• The addition of requirements for front and back rails of activation energies, i.e. pendulum impact energies at and above which the fence shall activate. The energies proposed have been developed by Dave Vos, based on the conservation of (after contact) energy and angular momentum with input parameters, such as jump speeds, heights, flight duration, etc., with the input of the Frangible Device Working Group members expertise and corroborating measurements from event video data.

In announcing the updated standard, FEI Eventing Committee Chairman David O’Connor and Risk Management Steering Group Geoff Sinclair said the new version was more reliable and testing was easier to carry out. This, they hoped, would encourage new ideas and will hopefully accelerate new developments for frangible fence devices.

“It is important to note that realistic infield assessment to ensure fences don’t break too easily has been strongly debated and agreed with the Frangible Working Group understanding the importance of balancing safety with true cross-country.”

» Advice for course designers (PDF)

» Frangible device information session (PowerPoint – 80MB)

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