Mark Todd: ‘Remove the element of danger in eventing and you kill the sport’ *H&H VIP*

  • I wasn’t keen to comment on the debate following the recent tragedy in the USA involving Philippa Humphreys — it’s an endless topic with no satisfactory conclusion. There have been three deaths in the sport already this year, and while no one incident is more or less tragic than the other, the fact that a six-month-old baby has been left without a mother has touched a nerve.

    Social media has been flooded with angry outbursts, lots of finger pointing and heated calls for radical changes in the name of safety.

    In my experience anger never solves any problems.

    But amid all the hysteria have been some thoughtful, sensible and touching comments, none more so than from Philippa’s husband Peter, who said: “Philly lived and breathed the sport. For her, the cross-country was it. All the work, expense and endless hours of dedication — it all came down to the few minutes on the cross-country… She knew the risks. We talked about them often. She accepted them unconditionally.”

    No one has the complete answer because there isn’t one. You can’t make riding horses in any form completely risk free, any more than you can make driving a car completely safe.

    The majority of people taking part in eventing do so for the “adrenalin buzz” of completing a cross-country round, at any level, and all fully understand the risk, otherwise we would take up dressage, showjumping or trekking.

    I hear people say, “Get your adrenalin high another way.” Try mountaineering or rock climbing. No thanks, too many die doing that. Hang gliding? They die, too. Extreme skiing? Not for me, too dangerous. And the list goes on.

    The fact is any sport or recreation that involves that adrenalin kick has an inherent element of danger and the possibility, albeit tiny, that, God forbid, things can go horribly wrong.

    I and others work hard at training ourselves and our horses so that we can be as fit and as well prepared for the task as possible. We owe it to ourselves, our horses, our families and the sport to be responsible, to do it this way.

    Remove the element of danger in eventing and you kill the sport. Some say that’s the way forward, but I would hate to see this. A safe and sterile world without danger would be a pretty boring place; we as humans need an element of risk, some more than others. But let’s keep our rational heads on and continue the good work that has been done in safety, to strive to make eventing safer without losing the integrity and excitement of the fantastic sport we all love.

    Badminton’s surprise

    It’s a surprise that Giuseppe della Chiesa is stepping down from designing the Badminton track after only three years.

    I thought he’d got this year’s course just about right. There was talk about whether the Vicarage Vee is a suitable fence. It’s been there a long time, has always jumped well and has always caused problems.

    But some of the riding this year was appalling. There was a perfectly jumpable option that didn’t waste much time, and people didn’t use their judgement well. If horse — or rider — isn’t up to jumping a fence like that, that’s one thing, but don’t blame the fence.

    Eric Winter, who is taking over, has built some interesting courses . It will be fascinating to see what he does.

    Great innovation

    Rockingham has really established itself in the calendar. How fantastic to have Robert Loomes & Co offering a watch worth more than £7,500 as an optimum time prize. This is the sort of innovation we need.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 May 2016