Is indoor eventing unsafe? The condensed form of the sport has found itself back in the spotlight following several heavy falls at a recent indoor competition in Canada.

Selena O’Hanlon, who rode for Canada at this year’s World Equestrian Games, was competing in the indoor eventing challenge at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto (7-8 November), when her horse, A First Romance, misjudged a Normandy bank-style obstacle and flipped over the fence on top.

Selena broke her collarbone, while onlookers took to social media to express concerns about the course and the format of the competition, which was against the clock.

“Whatever that was at the Royal Winter Fair, it wasn’t a true depiction of the sport of eventing. They should scrap it or rename it the demolition derby,” said one poster.

This is not the first time indoor eventing has been the subject of negative press. The death of Mary King’s ride Call Again Cavalier at the inaugural Express Eventing competition at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 2008 prompted a radical rethink on the shortened version of the sport.

This fresh debate has coincided with the FEI’s announcement that it has made some “strong recommendations” about the way indoor eventing classes are run — although it has denied this is in reaction to any particular event.

The FEI can only make recommendations, not rules, as these are not FEI competitions and are run under the jurisdiction of individual shows.

The most significant recommendation is that these classes should be designated as three-star competitions and horses and riders would need to be qualified to compete at this level. A three-star course designer should also be used.

Three competition formats have been “strongly recommended” — none of which involves the whole course being timed to find the winner.

Alice Dunsdon, who fell at a water obstacle while competing in an indoor event at the Stuttgart German Masters two years ago, welcomed the regulations, but also pointed out that riders need to be better prepared.

“My horse had never seen anything like the fence we fell at [a log into an elongated water tray] — he didn’t know whether to jump over it or in it,” she said. “When I went back the following year I made sure I had practised over a similar fence at home.”

Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 December 2014