At last week’s team chasing AGM, the need for improved safety standards and course-building was highlighted.

After a drama-filled season with a number of accidents and some criticism levelled at a small number of courses, the Master of Foxhound’s Association’s (MFHA) standing committee on cross country team chasing told members that standards had to be raised.

Joe Cowen, chair of the MFHA committee, told the meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse that course-building had been discussed at length by the committee.

“The feeling is that there is considerable room for improvement. A number of courses have been heavily criticised in the press (and among competitors) and we feel that every event should give considerable thought to how courses are built – not only for safety but to make them inviting and well-presented,” he said.

He added that next season, tighter inspection by officials will take place and that the course inspection fee will increase to £50. A new risk assessment schedule is to be completed by event organisers.

“Course inspectors will be a good deal tougher. If they ask for something to be improved, they will re-inspect and if it hasn’t been done, the event can’t run.”

However, course inspector Mike Felton stressed that most events were getting it right: “The majority of people putting these events on have really committed themselves to first-class courses.”

One rider asked for consideration to be given to larger start boxes after a horse was kicked as her team gathered. She also said that at one competition, a solid rail had been placed dangerously behind a brush.

Yvonne Goss of the Forge Flyers asked for a minimum height standard, as it was felt there was too much variation between open courses. She also felt bogey times in fun event classes were too slow, with some teams racing round then holding back before crossing the line in an attempt to match the time.

  • read the full story in the current issue of Horse & Hound (6 May)