Wednesday, January 12, 2011


One of the constant topics in eventing, as we all know, is how to make cross-country safer (for both horses and riders). Our sport has evolved so much in the past 30 years -- changing radically even within just the past 10 years or so -- yet those who are trying to ensure its future are some of the very same people who factor heavily into the great history of three-day eventing.

Hugh Thomas (yes, he of the esteemed Badminton horse trials...the very pinnacle of eventing) talks in this video about how the course at Badminton is continually being altered, outfitted, and updated to allow for "safer" cross-country fences, while still maintaining the integrity of an ideal 4-star track. I like his consideration of this as a scientific development (they don't expect an easy answer over night) and I also like his viewpoint on the proposed penalty system for a horse/rider combination who does err badly enough at a frangible fence to break the pin or "deform" the obstacle. I, personally, would gladly see them impose a 20 or 40 penalty rule for breaking a frangible opposed to the current penalty, which often times these days over primarily non-frangible fences seems to be either a serious fall, a tragic injury (to horse or rider or both), or the highest price possible: their very lives. I also thought it was interesting that he mentions David O'Connor's aversion to using the styro-logs at drops into water because he feels they would break too easily (thus being costly and time-consuming to keep repairing/replacing throughout a typical cross-country day). Of course, this very approach was employed this past spring at Rolex, to great success (thankfully).

As we all know, the dangers of cross-country are foremost on many people's minds, but it is a grave oversight to assume that nothing is really being done about it, just because courses haven't been magically transformed by utilizing Nerf sticks, Jell-O, and whipped cream to build the fences. I am much more for the frangible, deformable construction options everywhere, but I also don't want courses to begin resembling a "beefed up" show jump track or a hodge-podge of a gingerbread house in order to make all the jumps collapsible upon heavy impact. There is sophisticated engineering out there and creative mechanics testing is going on everyday. As with all innovations, it will take time, but the right answer(s) will come eventually. I do believe in that.

No comments: