Mark Phillips: Safety clips have a place in British eventing *H&H VIP*

  • I was interested to read that Mark Todd wants to see the end of the alligator in the water at Barbury.

    It’s on the list for change, partly as the three-star will have a new track next year. But I’m left with a lingering question about rider responsibility.

    Many horses, particularly in the two-star, left a leg and several got an early bath. There was a boat strategically placed before the alligator so riders could take a chance and approach on the angle or go around the boat and jump the alligator square on. Everyone who got wet took the angle.

    Is it up to the course-designer not to give riders the angled option or should it be the riders’ responsibility to do what’s best for their horse?

    Like Mark, I was mystified why quite so many of the Brits — 20 — withdrew before cross-country. A CIC3* is an expensive way to practise two phases. I could not agree with Yogi Breisner when he told me the ground was hard.

    After the Verti-Drain treatment the two-star horses made a great cut the day before: even before the rain you could see the print they made. We did not Verti-Drain the three-star course until Sunday morning — the later you aerate, the greater the benefit to the horses.

    The clips have a use

    After my comments asking why MIM Clips cannot be used in Britain, British Eventing’s (BE) Chris Farr wrote in to explain that they have not been submitted for the BE frangible device tests (letters, 9 July).

    This is true — because the makers know the clips won’t pass one of the Transport Research Laboratory criteria. There is a requirement around poles dropping vertically, while the action of the MIM Clip means the pole initially falls in an arc. However, this doesn’t stop the clips having a useful place in risk management.

    The British frangible pins are not infallible. The pin breaks only in a particular type of rotational fall — most designers have seen more rotational falls where the pin did not break than where it did. Also the pin is less likely to break over a narrow fence or when hit by a pony.

    Neither the pin, nor the reverse pin, nor the MIM Clip is guaranteed to break in every circumstance. If 10 horses hit a fence, they are likely to hit it in 10 different ways with different pressure from different angles. But a fence with a frangible device must be safer than one without.

    My belief is that the MIM Clip has a role but, like the pin, it is not the answer to every type of impact. I gather BE is now talking again to the MIM designers in Sweden, so hopefully progress can be made. Then BE can further educate its designers as to which device to use according to circumstances.

    Facing the challenges

    I talked to new BE chief executive David Holmes at Barbury. I was impressed by how quickly he has grasped the endemic problems within BE. Reorganising the board so each member has a specific area of responsibility will enable them to take better-informed decisions.

    However, I still despair that energetic up-and-coming organisers are held back from running an advanced class until an existing venue falls off its perch, thus creating a vacancy. This cannot be healthy for the sport’s development.

    At the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe entries are good for the new Corinthian Cup and the intermediate championships, but the novice championships has seen a serious decline. Hopefully BE will look at the qualification criteria next year.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 6 August 2015