New standard for frangible cross-country fences could boost invention *H&H Plus*

  • Following news of a new standard for frangible devices and a change to the testing process, hopes are high that new inventions to help improve eventing safety could be on the way. H&H finds out more and asks experts for their views...

    A new standard has been set for frangible devices following extensive research into eventing safety, with hopes this could pave the way for new inventions.

    The research involved six months’ work by the FEI’s eventing frangible device working group; Dave Vos, Geoff Sinclair, Mark Phillips and Jonathan Clissold, plus the Transport Research Laboratory.

    This included reviewing slow-motion footage of fences being jumped at multiple events as well as testing.

    “The updated standard is more reliable and the testing easier to set up, to encourage new ideas, and will hopefully accelerate new developments for frangible devices,” said the announcement from FEI eventing committee chair David O’Connor and risk management steering group chairman Geoff Sinclair.

    “It is important to note that realistic infield assessment to ensure fences don’t break too easily has been strongly debated and agreed with the frangible working group understanding the importance of balancing safety with true cross-country.”

    Presentations on the research were given at the FEI eventing risk management seminar in January (news, 13 February), at which the new standard was agreed prior to the public announcement last month.

    The main changes to the rules, which will come into play on 1 January 2021, are the addition of new specific energies at which rails must activate, and a change to the way devices are tested.

    Instead of using a 120kg pendulum impactor, the new rule states a 40kg kettlebell pendulum is used to “better represent a ‘hanging leg’ impact scenario”. This involves a kettlebell on a rope released at a certain angle, which research has shown is more realistic than other tests in recreating the impact on a fence that can lead to a rotational fall.

    “For the pendulum change, research indicated that many somersault falls occur as a result of a forelimb strike,” states the rule. “To more closely match a typical event horse forelimb in energy and momentum, the lower mass kettlebell… was proposed.

    “This has the additional advantages that it is low-cost and easy to build. This should help enable the development of prototype fences because fence manufacturers will be able to easily make a kettlebell pendulum at low cost and trial new ideas.”

    Course-designer Mike Etherington-Smith, who was involved in the creation of the new standard, told H&H this is good news for the sport.

    “We asked a couple of years ago whether it was time for a review; not that there was anything wrong with the previous standard, rather it is best practice,” he said, adding that it was “fantastic” to have engineer Mr Vos on board.

    “He events and he gets it — he bridges the gap where science meets eventing.”

    Mr Etherington-Smith said while frangible technology, fence build and course design are important, they are only some of the factors involved in cross-country safety.

    “We are never going to eliminate all falls, it is a risk sport,” he said.

    He added that correct training, which maintains horses’ ability to think for themselves, and combinations ensuring that they are properly prepared for the level and event they are entering, remain vital to eventing safety.

    Mr Clissold, British Eventing’s national safety officer, told H&H the new standard is “very positive”.

    “The sport carries a risk and you will never take that away completely, the main thing is managing that risk,” he said.

    “I think the biggest problem now is with no eventing, we have no chance to test [this new standard] out in the field.

    “I’m hoping now we have more time on our hands, someone may come up with another frangible device.”

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