April 10, 2008

As debate rages in the US about the safety of equestrian sports, injured three-day-event rider Darren Chiacchia is undergoing rehabilitation in his home state of New York.

Chiacchia was critically injured in mid-March when his horse hit a jump and somersaulted, falling on his rider. Chiacchia was in a coma for a week but is lucky not to be among the 12 riders killed during cross-country events around the world in the past year.

Chiacchia is undergoing rehabilitation at the Erie County Medical Center and is making good progress. He still needs assistance with walking and his rib injuries are still causing problems.

His family said that Darren "continues to be confused with his surroundings accompanied with obvious short term memory deficits, and some long-term memory difficulties."

Darren's Independence Farm in Ocala is operating at full capacity, under the watchful eye of Chester Weber and Darren's brother Dan. "It is business as usual at the farm. Other riders have continued to fulfill Darren's teaching responsibilities while Darren's full staff remains intact, training and grooming the horses under Darren's care."

Of the fatal accidents that have occurred in the sport in the past year, there have been no common link, although many were "rotational" falls, like Chaicchia's, where the horse somersaulted after hitting a sturdy, immovable jump. The riders killed ranged in age from 17 to 51.

After five riders died in the UK in 1999, officials designed a frangible pin which releases rails when a horse hits it. However, these cost $70 a fence and a report in United Press International said that only four percent of British courses use the pins, and even fewer in the US.