Just days before the death of British event rider Eleanor Brennan in a cross-country accident, the sport's governing body met to discuss eventing safety.
At the FEI's Bureau meeting in Dubai last Thursday and Friday cross-country design and overall safety were key topics discussed.
Brennan and her horse, Mister Barnabus, were both killed after the horse struck a gate by a 3'9" jump, fell onto his neck, and landed on Brennan. The horse died instantly and Brennan died shortly afterward in hospital, of head and chest injuries.
The accident happened at the Florida Horse Park at the Florida International Three-Day Event and Ocala Fall Horse Trials. The park's chairman, Tom Warriner, is calling for a review into whether the event coule be made safer. In February, another woman died in a fall at the park after suffering head injuries. Warriner said there was no connection between the two accidents.
At its Dubai meeting the FEI said that the number of accidents that have occurred in the last 10 months needed to be related to the fast development of the discipline and to the increasing number of competitors in national and international level. As a result, the FEI Safety Sub-Committee was created to address the issues.
The areas of investigation of the FEI Safety Sub-Committee are based on prevention, analysis and management. The FEI Eventing Safety Programme is focused on:
- research on construction systems combination of Safety measures;
- regular rules updates to provide the best current practices (rider qualifications, safety sanctions, design requirements);
- education of Course Designers and other officials;
- Coordination of national information;
- Standardized national reporting systems;
- Monitoring statistics, veterinary and medical information (concussion tracking) and input;
- Communication plan: launch of public relations action in international magazines and newspapers to provide in-depth explanation and update about the programme.
The formalisation of a cross-country design advisory group as an extension of the Safety Sub-Committee was approved, with the meeting acknowledging that the course designer has the most influence on the evolution of design and therefore on both national and international safety-related issues. The group's objective is to provide research on safety course design and frangible devices as well as cross-country fence building directives. Mark Phillips has been asked to chair the group.
An eventing safety forum, to be organised on 19 January 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark, will start safety discussions. All national federations with eventing involvement will be invited to attend and make presentations, along with course designers, trainers, riders, officials, equipment manufacturers, and veterinarians.
In a long-term initiative, an eventing strategic plan will involve a working group including riders, organisers, media, marketing and development representatives, to reflect on and plan the future of the discipline. The strategic vision of the Committee included priorities such as safety, education, and FEI World Cup Eventing.
Also discussed at the meeting was prioritising the education of eventing officials. To that end the following objectives have been set:
- Define concept and budget required;
- improve quality and system of education;
- encourage and improve the education of Course Directors (tutors);
- improve and insure equal level of course information and material for all courses;
- improve the requirement and criteria selection and promotion of Officials;
- necessity of attracting new Officials.