A new rule on horse falls has led to confusion in the team chasing community, with many riders being completely unaware of the change.

After what team chase committee chairman Joe Cowen described as “some noticeable incidents”, all competitors must now retire after a horse fall, as defined on www.mfha.co.uk. This rule exists in eventing and has been the subject of hot debate in jump racing.

But at the recent Pytchley event, which took place a few days after the rule was published on the team chasing website and senior teams were notified by letter, a competitor in the open class remounted and continued after a crashing fall.

Captain of the successful Boring Gorings team Fred French has not fallen since the new rule was brought in, but told H&H he was unaware of the change.

Anita Hall of Bollocks To Blair said: “For the horse’s sake, it’s probably a very good rule. I just feel it has been implemented badly.”

Confusion remains over the definition of a fall. Emma Burton of the Cunning Stunts believes the rule would have knocked her out of the Badsworth event last season after her horse crumpled on landing.

She added: “Several of the teams at the Belvoir event had slip-ups on the flat after the heavy rain. Would they all have been stopped from continuing?”

But Mr Cowen defended the move.

“It isn’t ideal to introduce a new rule mid-season, but we didn’t want to wait until next summer,” he said. “Having discussed the matter, it would have been awful if a horse had been injured because we failed to act.”

He added that he felt the letter to the senior teams, the update on the team chase website and the use of notes in secretary’s tents were enough to alert riders of the rule.

Janet Trotter, organiser of last weekend’s Cotswold fixture, made special efforts to ensure that the rule was stuck to by posting notices in the secretary’s tent. The event’s ground jury was briefed to stop competitors if they were alerted to a horse fall, and one team was disqualified after review of video evidence.

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (2 November, ’06)