Discussions about how to make cross-country safer without removing the challenge continue – as new data highlights where risk could potentially be reduced and the opportunity to create course risk profiles.
In a recently published FEI-funded study, researchers from the universities of Glasgow, Bristol and Nottingham Trent sought to identify risk factors for cross-country fencing using data from FEI eventing competitions between 2008 and 2018. Fences, including corners and trakehners, were identified as having increased the chance of a horse or rider falling, compared to square gaps – and fences featured later on the course, those with a downhill or water approach and/or landing, and wetsuits, also presented an increased risk.
The researchers said it “should be considered” whether it would be possible to design around the “more difficult” fences, and suggestions included ensuring that the more difficult fences are not “overrepresented” in the second half of the course, and to include more alternatives. routes. They said the results are the “first step” towards building a “profile or risk score” for each FEI cross-country course, which could be used to support the development of horses and riders, and be taken into account for the qualification criteria.
Lead author Euan Bennet said H&H that while some of the conclusions may be “common sense”, the study provides a quantification of the data.
“The really important thing we want people to take away from this is that we’re not suggesting that difficult fences should no longer be used – but we think we’ve identified that it’s possible to design around some of these more difficult elements,” he said.
“It’s not about making things easier, it’s about making things safer; have a course design that prioritizes safety without undermining this challenge. We think the results show it’s possible, so we’d like to open up more of a discussion about it.
The topic of cross-country difficulty and eventing safety and falls has been discussed at length this year, with Bramham course designer Ian Stark sharing his concerns about the future direction of the sport, and of riders, including Piggy March and Pippa Funnell, have spoken out against “dumbing down” the course (news, June 23).
Eric Winter, badminton course designer, said H&H the study is “interesting” but that there is a “tough line to cross” when it comes to course design.
“Course designers don’t want to see a horse on the ground. We absolutely hate this and try to prevent it as much as possible. You can’t race a horse on the cross beforehand and you can’t tell how things are going to go. It could ride perfectly for 90 horsepower and the 91st will fall,” he said.
“Course design is an art, it’s not a factory-made widget where thousands come out the same – it’s tied to the plot of land you have. You could say don’t use downhill gear and only build on the flat, but when you have horses moving at 570 meters per minute and they’re a little tired, all sorts of unpredictable things can happen. produce.
“It’s a really difficult thing because it’s easy to say that X percentage of horse falls have been in water jumps – so what do you do about it? You take the water out of the competition. Then you say X percent of the falls happened on fences with a roof over them, and you take them out. Soon you are down to logs and you end up galloping around a field of grass. Without challenge, there is no value.
Mr. Winter added that he would like to see future research around the qualification.
“There are horses qualifying right now without doing some of the key challenges – they qualify at four stars to go five stars without actually landing in a water jump. When a four star horse hasn’t to perform this drill to qualify, it leaves the sport in jeopardy,” he said.
An FEI spokesperson said H&H the study enabled the FEI to ‘gather information’ on risk management in eventing. The FEI Eventing Risk Management Steering Group will review the findings and discuss them at the Eventing Safety Seminar in January.
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