Horse falls in eventing will decrease by 10% overall and by 20% at four-star level by 2013.
That’s the aim of a new eventing risk-management policy and action plan, revealed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).
Event riders, officials, designers and organisers from 22 nations convened in Malmö, Sweden, last weekend (16-17 January) for the third annual FEI eventing safety meeting.
FEI eventing committee chairman Giuseppe Della Chiesa said: “Following last year’s meeting, when it became compulsory for each federation to have a national safety officer [NSO] [news, 29 January 2009], we now have a consistent approach to safety.
“We have targeted horse falls because we know they represent the highest risk of injury to horse and rider.”
The delegates agreed a plan which includes improving the international statistical database with medical and veterinary data on falls; standardising the format in which all nations report falls; producing FEI guidelines on cross-country design aimed at minimising risk, and working to eliminate dangerous riding.
Research into initiatives like frangible pins and breakable poles will continue.
“Eventing is, and will remain, a high-risk sport. Our duty is to manage that risk,” said Mr Della Chiesa.
“There is no magical solution. But we believe if we continue with improvements in areas including education of riders and officials in a consistent way, we can hit these targets.”
Data collected between 2004-09 shows that despite a 35% increase in the number of competitors internationally and a 22.5% increase in the number of starters, the percentage of horse falls decreased from 2.02% to 1.73%.
Britain’s FEI eventing safety officer Jonathan Clissold said: “There has been a massive improvement in the statistical information [since last year].
“British Eventing has been collecting data since 2004 and we have statistics on every fence at every event. But some nations do not yet have a database,” he said. “But the new NSOs have worked hard to get the best data they can together.
“It’s very important to have an action plan — there is no point in collecting this data without an aim.”
Eventer Clayton Fredericks, riders’ representative on the eventing committee, said he had been interested in the developments in “deformable” — or breakable — jumps.
“We can’t stop riders falling off, but we need to be able to avoid a catastrophe when it all goes wrong,” he said.
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (21 January, ’10)