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FEI Moves to Improve Cross Country Safety

Three-day eventing is a dangerous sport. Those who compete must accept the inherent risks and there will always be accidents. But 2016 has been a very bad year indeed due to the tradigic deaths of five leading riders.

Five High Profile Fatalities

Argentinian event rider Santiago Zone had a fall which proved fatal during a national event in Buenos Aires this October. In September, Russian eventer Nikita Sotskov was killed whilst riding at the Ratomka Horse Trials. In May, Philippa Humphreys, died as a result of injuries sustained in a fall at the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event in New Jersey, United States. The previous month Caitlyn Fischer, who was just 19 years old, was killed at the Sydney International Horse Trials. Olivia Inglis, aged 17, died following a fall at Scone Horse Trials in Australia.

New Group Addresses Eventing Safety

Now, the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) has established the Eventing Risk Management Steering Group. This will look at all aspects of three-day eventing safety in an attempt to reduce the risks associated with the sport. The group met for the first time this month at the FEI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The group has had a framework established for the work they will carry out. They will look at ways to limit the number of horse falls and try to identify how to reduce serious injuries to riders and horses. Studies from across the globe will be examined together with the available statistics relating to athlete qualifications and performance history. Fence design is to be investigated as well.

Statistics suggest that there has been a significant reduction in the incidence of hazardous rotational falls in recent years. Could we reduce this further? The incidence of non-rotational falls has changed little and examining the reasons for this is important.

The Group

The group will also examine safety equipment, the education of officials and the roles of officials at the events. The Chair is American David O’Connor, the 2000 Olympic eventing champion, and the group features British cross-country course designer Mike Etherington-Smith and British event rider Daisy Berkeley. Joining them are Canadian Olympian Rob Stevenson and Staffan Lidbeck, an FEI veterinarian. France’s Laurent Bousquet, an international eventing athlete and coach of the Japanese equestrian team, and Germany’s Philine Ganders, an FEI level three eventing steward are also members of the group.

Mitigate Inherent Risks

The safety of eventing has been consistently monitored in recent years but clearly more must be done to improve it. The Eventing Risk Management Steering Group are anxious to pose the right questions and then to find the answers. David O’Conner said, "We all love this sport and acknowledge that it carries inherent risks, but we owe it to everyone in the eventing community to do everything we can to make it as safe as possible for our athletes and for our horses."

The group will present their findings at the FEI Sports Forum in April next year. Hopefully we will all be reading fewer upsetting headlines in the years to come.

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