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Huge drop in horse falls at British events sparks questions and theories

There was a “huge” reduction in horse falls at British Eventing (BE) fixtures in 2020 compared to previous years.

National safety officer Jonathan Clissold gave the update on Britain’s national safety figures and what the future may hold during the FEI online eventing risk management seminar (24 January).

Last season’s calendar was heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic. While some statistics are clearly a result of that, such as a decrease of 67% in the number of events held, and a drop in starters of more than 50% (32,152 compared to the rolling four-year average of around 75,000), others are less clear-cut.

Rider falls remained at a similar level (less than 2% of starters), but the number of horse falls was down 33% on previous years. There was also a “significant” increase in minimum eligibility requirements achieved, up from a rate of 70.9% (2016-2019 average) to 74.2%.

Mr Clissold said the reasons are not clear, though one theory is perhaps people had more time for training given lockdown and the halt to the season, and they will be looking at future performances of those who achieved MERs in 2020.

He also reported on positive actions riders have taken since the continuing performance requirements (CPRs) were introduced, as well as a shift in attitude towards it. The CPR is a “drop down” rule, which works in conjunction with the EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI) system, that forces combinations repeatedly having cross-country issues to step down a level.

He added initially people were not keen on the CPR rule, but are seeing it is for their own benefit.

“I think it’s very easy for riders to forget they’ve had bad performances. They go out and only remember the last competition, and [they will always find] a reason for why they had a run-out or a few stops and they try and make excuses for it,” said Mr Clissold.

“This rather focuses the mind on their performance.”

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He said that it was encouraging to see people who triggered the CPR rule last year getting in touch with the organiser of their next event and asking to move to a lower class before BE even had a chance to contact them.

He also hinted that BE is looking at “perhaps adopting” the EquiRatings Horse Form Index (HFI) in future. This is a refined version of the ERQI system that gives a broader picture of a combination’s overall performance and how likely they are to jump clear across country or run into trouble.

The FEI has indicated it is considering adopting the HFI for international fixtures from 2023 (news, 28 January).

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