10 terrifying moments when riders’ tack has broken in competition

  • A snapped stirrup or rein is the stuff of nightmares — check out these instances when it happened to some of the best in the business

    1. Mark Todd at Badminton

    The New Zealand legend was flying round Badminton with Bertie Blunt back in 1995 when his left stirrup broke as he jumped into the Vicarage Pond. He suffered through the agony of completing the rest of the course, hitching his leg up to relieve the pressure between fences, but the next morning the horse had some bruising to his foot and had to be withdrawn from the final horse inspection. Poetic justice was served when the pair won the event the next year.

    2. Henrik Von Eckermann in Paris

    The Swedish showjumper was jumping a massive oxer in the CSI5* grand prix Hermès in Paris in 2017 when his right stirrup gave way. He made a valiant attempt to stay in the saddle, but was unable to do so. Luckily neither horse nor rider was injured.

    3. Sam Griffiths at Burghley

    Lying in eighth place after dressage at Burghley in 2016, the Aussie eventer was on track for a good placing with Happy Times when his left stirrup iron broke between fences three and four — the bolts holding the tread of the stirrup iron in place sheared off, leaving it dangling from the leather with nowhere for him to put his foot. Sam continued on course, clear all the way, until the Cottesmore Leap (fences 12/13), when he pulled up as the flapping stirrup was beginning to unsettle Happy Times.

    Sam Griffiths struggles with a broken stirrup at Burghley in 2016

    4. Christian Landolt at Bicton Arena

    Christian was leading after the dressage in the CIC2* at Bicton in 2017 with Toblerone NZPH when his stirrup snapped at fence two of the showjumping.

    “Luckily I did not fall off and managed to jump a few more fences before the pain of a pulled adductor muscle was too painful, so I had to retire,” he told H&H.

    “All I can say is that luckily I was not going across country at the time.”

    5. Harrie Smolders in Ghent

    The Dutch rider was just starting his jump-off in the CSI2* grand prix at Flanders Horse Expo in Belgium in February 2017 when his left stirrup snapped on landing at the first fence. Undeterred, Harrie continued round the course with Emerald NOP, with barely a break in his balance, and went on to win the class.

    6. Gregory Wathelet in Paris

    At the Global Champions Tour in 2014, the Belgian rider was contesting the Prix du Qatar on Conrad De Hus when the horse’s bridle came off over his ears as he jumped a large oxer near the end of the course. The ear covers momentarily obscured the horse’s vision, but the bridle then dropped down and flapped around while the horse kept hold of the bit in his mouth. The pair managed to jump three more fences, completing a clear round, before the horse spat the bit out after the finish flags.

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    7. Yago Alvarez del Castillo in Colorado

    The rider was representing Mexico North in the second round of a junior showjumping competition, when his left rein popped off his ride Coloredo 2’s bit as he jumped through a one-stride combination. He was forced to retire, but the team still captured the gold medal, with the rider’s score from round one among the counting efforts.

    8. Ginny Howe at Osberton Horse Trials

    Eventer Ginny Howe survived a hairy moment when her girth snapped over a fence at Osberton International Horse Trials. Ginny was riding her sister Rachael Sheppard’s horse Echo P in the CCI2* in 2017.

    “Looking at the video I think it happened two strides out [from fence six],” Ginny told H&H. “I was on a good stride, but he added another one.”

    She added she gave Echo P a couple of smacks after the fence as she thought he needed “waking up”, not realising that her girth had given way.

    She continued galloping round the corner and noticed what had happened about four strides out from the combination at fence seven, at which point she pulled up and retired.

    9. Ludwig Svennerstal at Blair Castle Horse Trials

    Ludwig was riding El Kazir SP in the Event Rider Masters class at Blair Castle Horse Trials, when the pair had a misunderstanding about the take-off point for the yellow upright at fence 10. The grey chipped in an extra stride and then blundered through the fence, throwing Ludwig up his neck. It looked momentarily like the rider would fall off, but he managed to right himself — only to find that somehow, the horse’s bridle and ear covers had slipped over his ears. The ear covers fell to the floor but the bridle was left dangling from the horse’s nose by the noseband, which was still done up. Unwilling to give up, Ludwig managed to lean forward and grab the bridle with his left hand and then use both hands to replace it in position while El Kazir SP trotted around. He then continued his round.

    “I wanted to carry on — he’s a new horse for me and I felt he should have taken off [on the first stride], but I’m not used to him and he’s not used to me,” said Ludwig. “He’s a bit spooky and not that secure in the ring, so he needed not to finish on that note. He’s a nice horse, he just needs more confidence in the ring.”

    Sadly in the course of the operation, Ludwig racked up 31 time-faults, as well as 12 jumping faults.

    10. Kirsty Short’s rein snapping at Lincoln Horse Trials

    Event rider Kirsty Short was competing Cossan Lad in an intermediate section at Lincoln when her rein snapped in the showjumping phase.

    In her H&H blog, Kirsty explained: “A tack malfunction at the sixth fence saw my rein actually snap at the rubber part. This was a first for me and such a shame as Bouncer was flying. I was absolutely gutted for him. He was actually really well behaved given the situation — he could have easily just popped out of the arena over the hedge. I took a check setting up for an upright and suddenly I was like “oh I have no rein attached”. I then leant down and grabbed the bit of rein hanging from the bit and managed to stop him. I did however contemplate for a second maybe I could loop the rein through the bit somehow and carry on. Thankfully my sensible side came over me and I retired.”

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