Reluctance to promote Frangible Fences………………………….

Safety or Risk Management – whichever you prefer, in Eventing has a number of aspects and opportunities for improvement.  One of the most critical is to “Prevent Rotational Falls”.  Why, Rotational Falls are responsible for the highest number of serious injuries and fatalities to horses and riders. This is a relatively simple goal.  Much harder in execution, for a number of reasons:

  1. Not every fence can or should be frangible otherwise we are just talking about showjumping.
  2. There is no simple application, different fences, building materials and locations of fences can lead to different issues.
  3. To date, no frangible device will work with all fence types, although some are getting close.
  4. Frangibility and consistency of results and fairness need to be as uniform as possible.
  5. Improving the quality of riding will help to reduce dangerous falls, although a number of high profile falls recently have proven that even the best can have rotational falls.
  6. What about the consequences on results of a serious XC mistake having no penalty? Thanks to a frangible device.

Quite rightly there is no simple answer, however there seems to be resistance from a number of angles in accepting and even embracing these new technologies and methodologies, without years of vigorous testing, analysis and use.  There is definitely a real case for getting it right, however as a sport, are we not better off to be seen rushing into some new technologies rather than dragging the chain whilst horses and riders die or have near misses.

A quick look at the web-sites of the biggest Three Day Events across the globe does not yield any information or focus on the Frangible Fences.  For instance, one would think that given intense media scrutiny these top events are under they would publicise those initiatives in place to help saves lives and reduce injuries.  There is a story in Horsetalk about the use of Reverse Frangible Pins at the 2010 Badminton Horse Trials, however this is about all there is.

Almost all major events use Frangible Technologies in some form, why do they not spruke about this, have a focus in their media releases, show the fences on their interactive course maps and show how they are designed to fail?  If it is good enough and promoted by our biggest and most prestigious events then it must be good enough to use at smaller national and international events.  As a sport we know we can improve safety and reduce the chances of life threatening injury to horse and rider, surely a higher profile focus on these improvements and initiatives will help us to deliver “good pictures” and good stories about our sport.

If not we will be left with videos on youtube, photos on front pages of newspapers or TV and Radio stories deploring the injuries and fatalities in our sport.  Did you know that a young lady died in May competing at 1 star level in eventing,  she will not be the last but we can ensure that as a sport we learn from her loss and the loss of others who have died or been seriously injured competing.

We have a plan as a sport, that plan needs to come to the forefront of everything we do, what we promote and where we are heading.  Let’s be proactive and talk about it at every opportunity and publicise our successes not just our failures or near misses.

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3 thoughts on “Reluctance to promote Frangible Fences………………………….

  1. I like the obstacles that are solid. Isn’t that the point of x-country? Maybe the questions are just too difficult for the horse and rider, or the rider isn’t schooled well enough when there are severe accidents? Perhaps horses and riders should qualify for events, even at the lower levels? i often see riders and or horses that don’t have the skills on the x-country course for the level at which they are competing. I hope to keep x-country fences solid, but safe and well constructed with appropriate questions for horse and rider alike.

    • Cheryl.
      Yes I too believe that solid appearing fences are critical to the future of the sport. However it is no longer acceptable to anybody that the consequences of a mistake or error of judgement of a horse or rider should be serious injury or potentially a fatality. There needs to be some middle ground. Yes there is definitely room for improving the quality of riding, there are days when I as the TD on course do not want to watch. However safety needs to come from a number of angle and improving riding is just one. I don’t think that Oli or his horse was too inexperienced to take on the combination at Rolex where he had his fall, simply they as a team made a mistake and thankfully Oli got away very lightly wearing some other improvements in safety:- A top quality helmet and air jacket.

  2. Badminton has always been keen to promote all the advances the industry makes in safety particularly with regards to frangible pins, with as many of the fences in 2010 utilising them as possible. You will find numerous photographs of the newest pin system being installed in some of the 2010 preparation galleries, and this was also highlighted at Badminton’s Press Day, and during commentary.

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