Event riders are calling for true striding at combination fences and a clearer system of rider reps following the death of Ian Olding at Belton Horse Trials last month.
Experienced and popular rider Ian, 47, died on Sunday, 26 April when his horse somersaulted at the table element (pictured right) of a combination fence halfway round the Lincolnshire course (news, 30 April).
The combination was made up of an angled pheasant feeder (12), followed by two long or three short strides to a table (13a) then another two long strides to another angled pheasant feeder (13b), in front of which were two lifelike wooden figurines.
J-P Sheffield was the last rider to go across country before Ian’s accident and said they had discussed the fence in the collecting ring.
“It wasn’t a big enough fence for people to complain, but they were worried,” he said. “I kicked up a fuss about distances at Weston Park last year. It only takes one person to fall.”
In the weeks since the accident, the eventing world has been awash with discussion about the jump and whether the “complaints system” for riders at events is working. BE has a system of unpaid “rider reps”, who liaise between riders and event officials.
A letter written anonymously to H&H, copied to British Eventing (BE), stated: “The distance between the first two elements of this fence was a worry to every rider I spoke to”, and accused the designer, Sue Benson, of either making a mistake or trying to make the fence “more tricky”. The writer said no riders had officially complained because “the BE establishment does not look kindly on competitors who question their judgement”.
Belton rider representatives Caroline Powell and Jeanette Brakewell told H&H they believe the system does work, but that it could be improved.
“A lot of people don’t speak out, because if they do, and the course then rides fine, they will look stupid — but I think this will change from now on,” said Jeanette.
“So many people feel bad about not having spoken out about that fence. I feel bad, Ian was a good mate.”
Read this story in full, including Mark Todd‘s thoughts about the fence, in the current issue of Horse & Hound (21 May, ’09)