Me on Eventing Nation – Eventing’s Honor Roll, the one list you don’t want to be on

Hi Guys I was moved to write this after reading about Jade South.

Eventing’s Honor Roll

Thanks for your interest



A turning point? I hope

Sebastian Steiner died on 18 September 2010

Sebastian Steiner died on 18 September 2010

In a little over two week there will be two meetings of critical importance to the future of Eventing.

The first on 28 January is a follow up to a meeting that occurred on the 10th of November. This meeting is working on “discuss the possible creation of industrial standards for frangible/deformable Cross Country fences to be used in FEI competitions”.

This is exciting. What is not exciting is that very few people participated in the meeting, the meeting is not open to all concerned or it seems anyone outside the United Kingdom bar a select few from Europe and the USA.

In addition, the minutes from this meeting have not been published publicly for the wider Eventing community, the goals, papers and responses are locked away in a secure part of the FEI Family website.

One can only hope that they will release further information following the 28 January meeting.

The second very important meeting is the annual gathering of all National Safety Officers at Greenwich on 29-30 January.  This meeting too, does not encourage input from outside the select group of NSOs and others by invitation (mine it seems got lost in the mail).  I am confident that at the NSOs meeting they will discuss the aforementioned industrial standard for frangible/deformable cross country fences at the NSOs meeting.

What I hope is, will we turn the corner, will we move away from the situation of paranoia, closed doors, secret meetings and secure password controlled minutes?

Will we see publicly for the first time, a written simple and concise plan, that outlines in plain English (and French as well as many other languages), our goals, KPI’s and statistics for moving forward.

I am not hopeful, it only takes five minutes on Google to know that this conversation was happening, in the same tone, with big plans in the late nineties.  Have we improved? I think so, have we learnt anything, technically & scientifically YES, from a Public Relations and Management point of view, it seems not.

I recently came across a list, it is a list that will chill the bones of any Eventer or Eventing supporter.  The list contains the names and details of EVERY death of a rider, that has made it into the public domain since about 1997. Some of these names I have heard before but many I hadn’t.

For me personally, this list and the people whose lives were lost in our sport, this is why I do this, stick my neck out.  Unfortunately, every year on average just under four lives are lost in our sport.

2010 was an average year as we said goodbye to Dirk Grouwels (48) of Belgium in March, Elena Timonina (16) of Russia in May, Robin Donaldson (64) of Great Britain in September and Sebastian Steiner (22) of Austria in September.

I hope, dream and pray (I’m not very good at it) that 2011 will not be an average year.  Will we find some miracle cure in 2011 in the Industrial Standards?  I don’t think so, but I do hope that we can be more open, inclusive and forthright about the challenges our sport faces and how we will tackle this as a team.

Can we continue to add names to this horrific list and look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly say with hand on heart, I did everything in my power to stop adding to this list.

Believe me I haven’t forgotten about our horses and those that have given there lives for the sport.  Personally I have been around to see three of these, three too many and I know how tragic it is.  But, if we can’t get motivated enough to stem the list of human deaths, how can we even start on the list of horse deaths.

One final thing I ask, I want to ensure that this plea is read by every single person who will be in those meetings.  Please share the list as far and wide as possible, post it to your Facebook, email it to your Eventing contacts or Tweet it, whatever you can do to help spread the word will be truly appreciated.

Hopefully in late January, we can move past the excuses for not doing something, focus on the list of the past and prepare a plan for the future.

If you can bear it, there is a fairly comprehensive list on Horsetalk of both horses and riders.

The Mim NewEra Team are hard at it

At maximum height 120cm the Mim adjustable Post and Rail

At maximum height 120cm the Mim adjustable Post and Rail

Mats Björnetun and Anders Flogård of MIM Construction Frändefors Sweden are never happy with just letting things roll along.  Having developed, tested and rolled out samples across the globe, Mats and Anders have both been working hard at demonstrating how flexible their product is.

I mentioned in my last post that the Mim NewEra seems to have been pigeonholed in the US as a device to make a table frangible.  This device is so much more, in fact I have not seen a table used apart from the one at Chat Hills.

What I have seen is

  • a vertical gate
  • upright skinny and the video clip on this post demonstrates how competition durable the Clip system is

And now we have this, a frangible post and rail that is adjustable in height, YES adjustable, it can be used for a lower end national class one weekend and the next be rolled out for a 4*, in my time I have not seen a fence this flexible.  Thanks again to Anders and Mats for helping to change the way we think about XC fences.

With dressing and some good ground anchors, this could be used at an Event near you.

Side on view of the Mim Team's Adjustable Post and Rail

Side on view of the Mim Team's Adjustable Post and Rail

At mimimum height of 85cm the mim adjustable Post and Rail

At mimimum height of 85cm the mim adjustable Post and Rail


We all need to be involved in the solution

From Grant Johnston FEI I Course Designer

As an International Course Designer and Builder, the one thing I can note is that we are always trying to build jumps as safely as possible.

I also note that at some of the major events this year in the UK and USA, that some of the frangible pin technology DID NOT fail when it should have. This may have been because the pins were not correctly installed, possibly the way the horse hit the fence meant that there was not enough pressure going ‘down’ or it could have been that the pins simply were not appropriate for the style of the fence.

I would hope that we in Australia could encourage Eventing NSW to lobby Equestrian Australia to provide funds for Course Safety improvements. Not only to provide ‘pins’ and the like freely to event organisers (there are also plenty of other safety improvements out there now besides pins), but also provide funding so both our professional and amatuer course builders, Course Designers AND Technical Delegates are shown HOW to install them and what situations they are appropriate.

There is no doubt that many of the new safety devices currently in use are expensive so many event organisers in Oz shy away from this due to budget constraints, which means that we need our governing body to assist in providing funds to make it more achievable for event organisers to make it safer… The other option will simply be, that for event organisers to make it viable they have to continue to increase entry fees, something which most riders DON’T want to see.

After spending some time in Europe this year at Badminton and other events, If I were still riding today, I would be investing in every technology I could to protect myself. A high quality body protector, an air jacket, the safest helmet my budget could afford and I wouldn’t ride ‘yanga’s’…

Also as a rider, I would be happy to put in for a ‘sinking’ fund that would not only assist in making our courses better, but also make the courses ‘SAFER’.

Riders need to lobby for this to happen.. It won’t happen on it’s own.

My Response

Thanks Grant I agree. In the US frangible pins are required and provided FREE by the USEF to all Events. NO limits. In Holland the cardboard poles are also REQUIRED and FREE to EVERY event, I think the Dutch add $2.5 euros to every entry to cover cost of poles and transport.

BUT that is only the first step. No point having them if people don’t know how to use them:

A.In the correct situation, on the right fences at the right height, weight, etc.
B How to install them correctly.

The best example of instructions I have found, and indeed the ONLY real one, is from the USEA, This document is constantly evolving to meet the changes, lessons learned and keep up with standards.

Here is the link for the USEA page on my site and here is the actual document.

As for the NEW technology, I too have been lucky enough to see the Mim Clip and ProLog in action this year. Both hold huge promise. Course Builders, Organisers, Federations and the FEI need to use, test, report, share and build a bank of data that can help us get to where we are currently with the frangible pins now, much quicker.

No excuses, no umming and arrring, JUST DO IT, because the quicker we get it right the more lives we will save, that simple. in the meantime, we must test in competition at ALL levels and sometimes we will NOT get it right, but better to fail trying than not at all.

As for here in Australia, to date, other than the fall study which is now a few years old. I have been unable to find ANY documents, minutes, guidelines or anything else related specifically to Eventing – Safety or Risk Management (whichever floats your boats) that has been produced here in Australia.

We need to seriously pull our fingers out and get on the front foot, support our Officials, Designers/Builders, Organisers and most importantly Horses & Riders and get this right.

I know first hand that the average small competition in Australia can’t afford to put the 6-10 frangible fences they need in. BUT can we as a sport afford for them NOT TOO. It is only a matter of time before we lose another rider in Australia. We don’t want to be in a position to say, that fence would have been pinned (or other) if we could afford it.

EventingSafety on Stable Scoop Show on Horse Radio Network

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the second annual twitter show on Stable Scoop.  The concept is great, if you are on twitter and follow @horseradio you were offered the chance to be part of the show, with a limit of 10 tweeps being involved.  I jumped at the chance to spread the word about EventingSafety even though the interviews were to be recorded around 3am here in Australia.

With no thanks to technology, I was able to talk to Glenn and Helena for my 4 min spot and here is the resulting show on the Horse Radio Network.

Stable Scoop – The Second Annual Twittter Marathon Episode No. 96 featuring John from EventingSafety

Another sad day for our sport

Unfortunately a young lady, only 16 years old, lost her life participating in our sport on the weekend. In today’s age of social media it is on youtube, however I wont be posting the link nor giving you any help to see it. Believe me you don’t want to see it.

That said it was a classic rotational fall where the horse landed fair and square on the rider. In the video the horse gets up and looks fine but there is no movement at all from the rider.

The video does highlight another issue that does bear more discussion and is a bit of a bugbear of mine, securing portable fences, the fence in this fall is portable and rotates with the horse. It definitely wasn’t secured properly at the front, whether this may have prevented the rotation is speculation, but the fence was not secured at the front.

I know that many course builders find it honorous to secure every portable down on a course but there is definitely just cause for doing so, this is a good example.

Auger Bit

Ground anchor from

A friend of mine also had a fall last year which witnesses say was worse because the fence stayed under the horse giving him nowhere to put down. The end result was that the horse suffered a permanent brain injury and the rider sustained liver, chest and brain injuries thankfully none permanent.

I have seen many ways to secure a fence during my short time in the sport and often they are inadequate or an afterthought.  This is an attitude that needs to change, securing fences safely and at the front to prevent the whole fence rotating must become normal practice.

The best, quickest and safest method I have seen was at Red Hills Horse Trials which was built by Eric Bull and his crew.  Eric has developed a system, adapted from others I believe, which can be put into place in minutes.  Importantly, it can be removed almost as quickly and does not require digging holes.

Auger Bit

Ground anchor from

There are two parts to the system which Eric sells on his website, the first part is a right angle bracket that is screwed to the fence at it’s lowest point on the front, either face or sides, depending on the fence.  The second part is basically like a large auger bit with a hex head on the top.

The auger is driven into the ground through the slot on the angle piece with a bar.  This is quick and the bit screws itself into the ground so that it really bites into the ground.  There are two lengths available so you can use a longer bit on sandier or softer soil to get more bite.

To remove you simply use a large socket wrench and unscrew the bit from the ground and then undo the screws holding the bracket to the fence.  All component are 100% reusable so the cost is one off and the occasional broken screw.