The chairman of Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) has called for a “fundamental rethink” on course design, following the death of Tom Gadsby at Somerford Park.
Patrick Wall said Tom’s death in the CIC* again highlighted the danger of certain types of falls.
The 26-year-old New Zealander was killed when his horse rotated over fence 4B, a log pile with a filled-in top, and landed on him.
Last month, Laura Collett suffered a crashing rotational fall in an intermediate section at Tweseldown (8 July) when her mare chested a filled-in corner.
“Knockable elements, frangible pins and collapse-on-impact materials in fence construction are improvements, but more can be done,” said Mr Wall.
“It is not acceptable that people are killed participating in the sport they love when all preventative initiatives have not been exhausted.”
Mr Wall added that the addition of an “apron” or toeboard to give the horse a ground line — as seen on steeplechasing fences — was one “simple initiative” that could reduce the risk of rotational falls.
This suggestion was welcomed by four-star event rider Alice Dunsdon, who observed several horses hitting the same fence as Laura Collett’s at Tweseldown.
“It is so important to have a ground line, especially on the solid, boxy fences,” Alice told H&H.
“I think you can get away without a ground line at a rounded fence, whereas the one Laura fell at was a very upright corner.
“They [upright fences] have become more popular in the past 10 years and I don’t think they do the horse or rider any good,” she added.
British Eventing (BE) chief executive Mike Etherington-Smith agreed that it was “essential” to “continue to explore all avenues that could lead to a safer sport”.
He said BE would be pleased to welcome HSI to share its suggestions, “as we welcome ideas from all quarters”.
His words were echoed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa, chairman of the FEI eventing committee and the new course designer at Badminton. Mr Della Chiesa stressed that, while eventing could never be a “zero risk” sport, the FEI was committed to exploring ways of further improving safety.
The statistical risk of suffering death or serious injury had “decreased significantly” in the past 10 years, he added.