During the last nine months or so I have seen first-hand, how difficult the whole Eventing Safety movement (or lack thereof) is. There are a number of different pieces of equipment, employed in a variety of ways, and still we don’t have a definitive plan, actions or even standards in place. All we have is a target for each of the FEI classes of reducing horse falls.
When I ask questions about the processes, ask why issues or plans are not being discussed publicly, I am usually met with silence. Why are we not being proactive in actions and communication? I don’t know. What I do know is that it doesn’t help to pull down the “cone of silence” and hope that the noise will die down, people will forget and move on, thus avoiding the hard questions all together.
There are calls, quite rightly from esteemed Experts – I mean this, they are experts, please don’t take this as jest – such as Lucinda Green, for better training of horse and rider. Lucinda is right, better training has to be part of the solution. Unfortunately, as we grow the sport, for the good of the sport, we naturally end up with less experienced horsemen in the saddle. They have not experienced Pony Club, galloped around the back paddock with a halter on their horse only, nor have they or do they have access to top-class trainers.
So training must be part of the solution, but only a part. I believe there are two other critical factors.
In design and construction, a course designer and the builder interpreting the design, need to be focusing on NOT tricking horses and riders, but ensuring fair tests and most of all ensuring that the consequence of not reading a question on course correctly does not result in a life threatening injury for horse or rider.
The final factor is use of frangible technology, in appropriate fences in the appropriate location on course. A designer said to me recently, when designing, “if I think I need a frangible fence in that spot, it probably means I am not asking the right question in the right location”. That is a great piece of wisdom to start with. However, reality and in some cases the rules, dictate that we utilize frangible devices on course.
The first question for a designer is which fences in which locations need frangible devices, the second question is which type of frangible device will I utilize.
Currently there are four main devices/methodologies
- Frangible Pin
- ProLog (polystyrene log)
- Mim NewEra Clip (Swedish clip)
- Reverse Frangible Pin
NB: I have not mentioned the Dutch Cardboard pole as it is my understanding that no other Federation utilizes this method.
The Frangible Pin is well known and was developed in 2002. The other three have really only emerged in the last 12 months. Like everything it is an evolution.
I first saw both the ProLog and the Mim NewEra Clip at Red Hills, Florida USA in March, although the NewEra Clip was not being used, I saw a sample. I did see it in action in May at the Sydney World Cup Event.
When I saw the NewEra Clip in action, I was really impressed at how, when it activated it did not impair the horse’s movement. Basically the log was out of the way before the horse could react and more importantly, before physics took over.
Last night I watched the much awaited (for me anyway) video from the USEA of the session presented by Mats Björnetun from Mim about the device he created. But more importantly, he redefined rotational falls for me and identified the key issue that has been ignored to date.
This is the full length video of Mats presentation, approx 45 mins, thanks to the USEA.
Rotational falls generally fall into two categories:
- Slow rotations, spectacular and often the rider has the chance to move off the axis of the horse
- Fast rotations, deadly and there is no chance for anyone to react.
What is a critical thing with fast rotations is that most occur with little or no, vertical force, almost all force in a fast rotation is horizontal. THIS IS CRITICAL.
The frangible pin is designed ONLY to break on vertical force.
Mats argues that 80% of rider fatalities occur from fast rotations with horizontal force. The Oli Townend fall at Rolex this year is a classic example of this.
For me, the biggest bombshell for me in Mats presentation was that the “best scientist for working out how to affect the centre of gravity for the horse, is the horse, they have been doing it their whole lives”, our job is to help them. If the obstacle they strike, i.e. the solid cross country fence, then drops away before they can rotate, they have a chance of getting their legs back down.
He also make one other proviso in the name of physics, if the frangible log weighs more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) then physics – momentum will win and the rotation will happen anyway, regardless of the system.
So in short, the Mim NewEra Clip system is designed to let the horse do what it does best, stay on its own feet. No other system is designed to do this, and do this quickly. What does this mean for the sport? More hard work, more work at the drawing board and more testing in the field of the Mim system.
Will people be happy about these key issues that have been identified? Some will and unfortunately others won’t. Is Mats going to make money out of this? Eventually, maybe. To date Mats has invested over 250,000 euros into developing this product. In addition he has agreed to invest a further 30% of all sales back into development for the next three years. The Eventing community worldwide is not that big, so no this is NOT going to make him bazillions of dollars, ever.
Perhaps Mats has done this for the same reason I run this website. I do not EVER want to be the one who has to ring a parent or partner and tell them their loved one has just died on a cross country course. Selfish, I know, but put yourself in my shoes, you don’t want to do it either.
I hope you can find the 45 minutes to watch Mats entire presentation, if not, with the permission of the USEA I have edited this down to a more manageable 23 mins. If you love the sport of Eventing, please take the time to watch at least the shortened version.
Looking forward to the commentary, keep up the discussion.
This is the shortened video of Mats presentation, approx 23 mins, thanks to the USEA.