Facing tough truths could help eventers improve their own safety *H&H Plus*

  • H&H reports on what experts believe are key factors in improving eventing safety for both horse and rider, as discussed at the 2021 FEI risk management seminar

    SELF-REFLECTION and and facing up to uncomfortable truths are vital for riders if eventing safety is to progress.

    The call for riders to take responsibility for their own safety – and discussion over how their coaches and peers can help them do so – was made by Chris Bartle, William Fox-Pitt and Jon Holling during the FEI eventing risk management seminar (23 January).

    British eventing high performance coach Mr Bartle stressed this is “not about apportioning blame”, but instead analysing whether certain mistakes are training issues, and if those came about as a result of conscious or unconscious decision-making.

    “MERs [minimum eligibility requirements] are a technical way of the FEI dealing with making sure riders and horses are ready to move to the next stage, so they are only the very base level,” he said.

    “I think the important thing in coaching, and developing people’s understanding of the sport, is to have an idea that MERs are there in the background, that they are important and necessary to achieve to move to the next level. But more importantly, that the rider feels competent and confident at that level, and that the coach, in helping them make that decision, can be absolutely honest and direct as possible, even if sometimes there is a risk that you’re going to upset somebody if you say they are not ready.”

    Mr Bartle also recommended that the FEI place a member of the ground jury in the riders’ tent, where riders and connections gather to watch live feeds at major events, as this is where vocal peer feedback happens in real time.

    Speaking about eventing in general, William said the sport as a whole “has to be braver” at addressing cross-country riding incidents when they happen, and a word between riders can sometimes be a good way of doing this.

    “MERs are a new thing, but ultimately we as the riders are responsible for ourselves,” he said.

    “We mustn’t hide behind officials or MERs or any excuses, we are responsible. Are we ready? Are we riding well enough? I think a lot of riders will say: ‘Well no one said anything, my owners are supporting me, I’m qualified, so I’m going to go.’ That is where the sport has really moved on now. A qualification is not a right to continue. We need to be very honest with ourselves.”

    He added that there is a responsibility from the sport, officials and trainers to support riders in that self-reflection, “to be braver” in pulling up riders and in having conversations with them where necessary.

    “We all need to think, be aware and be responsible,” he added.

    New tech

    NEW technology that quantifies how hard a horse is working was presented by showjumper David Deillon.

    David founded Alogo Analysis, a Swiss company specialising in equestrian analytics to evaluate performance and health, as he wanted to visualise and measure feelings he got as a rider. If a horse was jumping flat or over-jumping, for example, what might that mean.

    The Alogo sensor fits on the girth and analyses the full movement of the horse.

    Staffan Lidbeck, FEI vet, coach and risk management steering group member, said Alogo hopes to run a study at CCI5*s. There are hopes this could show links between performance and movement, such as degree of fatigue and jumping or stride patterns, plus whether risk factors in course-design predispose to fatigue.

    Steering group member David Vos, an expert on frangible devices, said it is “super exciting”.

    “We will have real power output data to corroborate what everyone knows from experience, and answer a lot of questions,” he said, adding that this may also feed into questions surrounding longevity of event horses.

    “For example, is this course really difficult with these going conditions today and should we try to look at course times and optimum times? It opens a whole world of data-driven decision-making and evaluation on horse welfare and performance.”

    “This sensor gives you almost a stride-to-stride perspective on your riding style, on your efficiency and how hard you are making your horse work,” he added.

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