USEF to support frangible devices

Occasionally I get some really good news sent to me very anonymously, sometimes it isn’t so good, but this one is.  For many years the USEF has been a leader in the introduction of Frangible Devices in the sport of Eventing. They are one of the few Federations to require Frangible Devices on certain types of  fences and also one of a very few that actually subsidize the  cost of using the devices.

Until now the USEF has only funded the British developed Frangible Pin. But a little birdy tells me this is all about to change.  As of very soon, the USEF will broadly support “Frangible Devices” and will subsidise the cost of the Mim NewEra System and I believe the Prolog, (while the Mim is a definite, I am not 100% sure on the Prolog).

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

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

I honestly believe that the Mim system is the best available product on the market today.  This is great news for US Eventing and I hope that the leadership shown by the USEF will be adopted by of other Federations including my own which lags behind in this area.

This change for the USEF will be reflected in changes to the design rules in the US that mandate the use of Frangible Pins on certain fences to more broadly Approved Frangible Devices.

Congratulations to the USEF for being world leaders in this area, as I understand it the push for this change came from the very top.

Lets hope we see more of this.



How do we share our learnings effectively?

I have been pondering a couple of questions since Rolex, and I think they are worth sharing and discussing.

  1. Why were there no Mim NewEra Clips at Rolex?
  2. How do we share new ideas and concepts on “frangible fence design” effectively and efficiently?

I will start by saying neither of these questions is meant as a criticism but purely as points to generate debate. Personally I seek out frangible fences and always aim to have a real understanding of the thinking behind their use, the device incorporated and what will happen if they are deployed.

I think this is good practice for everyone involved in our sport, we all need to know and understand more about these devices.

So back to Rolex, I have had a good look at the fence photos and only the frangible pin was used, both in traditional and reverse installation.  The double corners caused a number of issues on the weekend including these incidents below, the second of which ended up being the most serious of the weekend with a dislocated elbow.

So the question I ask myself, is could the either situation have given a different result if the Mim device was used instead of the pins? Personally I think yes, the Mim installed on both front and back could and should have collapsed in both situations. But most course builder and designers, or even TDs have never seen such a fence.  I have, at Adelaide last year and I did a video for Eventing Nation on it with TD Andy Griffiths, (while the sound is terrible in parts) and it show how a frangible corner can be built.

So how do we share this information and knowledge in the future?



2011 FEI Risk Management Seminar Minutes and Reports

My apologies for not getting onto this earlier but I have been away in sunny Florida.

So the FEI have released the minutes, participant list, presentations and fall statistics from the meeting held in late January. We must remember that this annual meeting is primarily National Safety Officers and is called the “FEI Eventing Risk Management Seminar”.

I must say up front that I was told in no uncertain terms prior to the meeting that the meeting was not about frangible devices or moves to develop an industrial standard. Well this seems to be exactly the case. I found a total of three references, in all of the eight documents published. All of these references were passing and include NO detail at all.

Personally I see this as a glaring omission and I will explain why.

For at least the last 12 months and for longer, but perhaps more anecdotally, we have been compiling data on the types of frangible devices used, types of fences they were used in, did they deploy or did they fail to deploy.

These are important statistics, there is NO statistical information included in the FEI Statistic on falls, fences and injuries that identify frangible devices. Just so I am being clear, there is absolutely no statistical information released by the FEI on the use of frangible fences.

I believe this information is critical to our plans and future direction. Let me explain a little first. At an FEI Competition, the TDs and CD need to fill in an extremely detailed form outlining the details of every fence included in the competition. Using this information we should be able to identify if you are more likely to have a horse fall off a left or right bend, in or out of water, up or down a hill, at a portable or fixed fence and also at a frangible or non-frangible fence.

We can also identify using the report, the profile of fences that have a statistically higher chance of causing a horse fall. We should also be able to identify if a particular profile of fence has a lower chance of producing a horse fall if a frangible device is used (and perhaps even which type of frangible device has the lowest chance of a horse fall).

All of this information is important for Officials to understand when analyzing a course and for CDs when preparing a course. Failure of frangible devices to deploy is also important information, especially when the resulting fall results in serious injury or worse. I can think of four really famous examples of failure to deploy in the last 12 months.

Was the failure to deploy a case of the perfect storm of bad circumstances or simply, a less appropriate device being used?

What I do know is that this type of information need not be highly sanitised to the point the information becomes useless, but disseminated to the people who need to know, firstly the NSO’s and secondly to the Officials who are the Individuals responsible and are responsible when something goes wrong.

I really do hope that more time was spent on discussing frangible devices and that some lost report suddenly appears on the FEI website, but I do not hold out much hope. It seems we are destined for another year of sanitised, compartmentalised and fragmented information about the sport.

One other issue I see with the statistics is that they only represent the FEI competitions. I know there are issues with getting complete information from National Federations, but hey, a complete picture on the sport would be nice. For instance the report mentions that there have been seven rider fatalities in the last 7 years. Unfortunately when you add the national competitions into the mix that number goes from 7 to 27 almost four times the rate.

Statistics are important and we must continue to work on them, however we need to extract and disseminate more meaningful and practical, applicable data that a Course Designer or Technical Delegate can use in the field where it really matters.

The documents can be read and downloaded on the FEI website here.

2011 Eventing Risk Management Seminar in Greenwich

On January 29 & 30 2011, the Annual Eventing Risk Management Seminar was held in Greenwich, the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games Equestrian Events.

This meeting is an important event on the future of Safety (Risk Management) in our sport and brings together National Safety Officers and other interested parties from across the Eventing world.

What was discussed is unclear at this stage as the minutes and papers from the Seminar are yet to be released and although I have placed a number of calls and emails to people I know were present at this stage I am none the wiser.

There was a press release from the FEI that can be seen here. However at this stage we are short on detail.

For one I have been trying for a period of time now to obtain a copy of the “FEI Eventing Risk Management Action Plan” mentioned in the press release and the best answer I have obtained is that it is being updated and will be made available when the updating is complete.  To my knowledge although in the press release it states that “launched in January 2010” it has not been released publicly before now. So this will be an eagerly awaited document.

In addition as I have mentioned previously there was a meeting on the 28th of January 2011 at the offices of TRL in London to discuss the creation of an industrial standard for Frangible Devices to be used in Eventing.

Again more information has been promised at some stage, however in the meantime the only mention of this meeting having occurred from the FEI is a paragraph (below) in the FEI Monthly Review from November 2010. Here is a copy of the full document on the IEOC website.

Eventing: meeting at Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Wokingham (GBR), 10 NovemberThe meeting took place to discuss the possible creation of industrial standards for frangible / deformable Cross Country fences.Among the 18 participants were the Chairman of the FEI Eventing Committee, researchers from the universities of Bristol (GBR) and Kentucky (USA), as well as MIM Construction AB (SWE) and several top Cross Country Course Designers.Several frangible and deformable devices were presented. Discussions included possible definitions of tests to be undertaken (ie. forces to be measured) for such fences and enabled the participants to set out the principles for a first draft, which will be further reviewed at a meeting in January 2011.

That said I have seen a copy of the minutes of this meeting in November and it sounds promising.  However I will reiterate my previous comments that only a select few were present at the meeting, the team from ProLog were a notable exception despite some very promising research conducted that they have real capacity to stop rotational falls before they even begin.

I think that is enough said until I can obtain copies of the documentation.

Yours in Eventing and please wear your safety helmet, securely fastened at all times when mounted.


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.

Badminton – Leading the way and stepping up to the plate

Recently I leveled a direct criticism at all of the Four Star Events as NOT one included any in depth information of any kind on their website as to the safety devices used on their XC course.  My premise was that as the Four Stars, riders and other event organisers look up to them so seeing that a 4* is doing it would help promote to others to do more too.  Only one event responded to my criticism and in fact, they promised to do something about it.

That event was Badminton and last night I received this live to the story, where Badminton Director Hugh Thomas talks about safety.  I applaud Badminton, for taking the lead, I will also be preparing a story on the safety utilised at Adelaide last week.

Thank you Hugh and thank you to Monty White, who produced the video.

This is the full story on the Badminton Blog, and below is the interview with Hugh Thomas

Increasing awareness and discussion about Eventing Safety, FINALLY!!!

Well, WEG has come and gone and to be honest I have tried to enjoy the entertainment from all directions without ranting about safety, although I couldn’t help myself and commented on the continued “IMMUNITY” that dressage riders seem to have on head injuries or at least think they have.

I thoroughly enjoyed a real variety of coverage of the games and the best stuff was really the behind the scene reports from Samantha & Glenn from Horse Radio Network, John and Team from Eventing Nation, endless twitter feeds from some wonderful & informative tweeps and of course Hamish & Dave.  Those two, I think, even surprised themselves.

Special mention must also go to Australia’s newest team member Peter Atkins and his horse Henny, their XC run on youtube was highly awaited and is breathtaking.  It is hard to imagine watching this horse carve up the course with less than two years of eventing under his 9 year old belt!  If you haven’t seen it, I guarantee this is 12 and half minutes of XC you will want to watch time and time again, I watched it for the first time on my big ass TV.

I had a ball at WEG, all live from my home, my office and even in my car listening to the daily Horse Radio Shows, I think I am already going through withdrawals on hearing Samantha Clark’s voice every day.  So now as we prepare for London 2012 and us Aussies need to pull our fingers out as we don’t have a qualification yet, I would like to reflect on Safety at WEG.

John Thier please accept this as a complement I am a fan of your bullet points and will adopt them for this post.

  1. I did not see a single media release or story from anywhere in the world that had any focus at all on the safety aspects built into the Cross Country Course and Fences, I am happy to be proven wrong but I did not see one.
  2. This year’s WEG seemed to have only incorporated one safety device Standard Installation of the “Frangible Pin”, now this surprises me as both Mike ES Course Designer and Mick Costello Course Builder are both advocates of the use frangible devices and Mike ES in particular is behind the use of the Reverse Frangible Pin methodology.  There were no ProLogs or Mim NewEra devices used on course.
  3. There was a liberal use of brush, many people don’t think of this as a safety device but it is, brush allows you to build big fences where the hard (fixed) part can be very low.
  4. Today or yesterday depending on where you are in the world John Thier published an article on his website Eventing Nation on Frangible Pins and Eventing Safety, John, as he does, has managed to explain how Frangible Pins work in simple and easy to understand language.  He has also touched on one of the key issues, Frangible Pins, particularly in their traditional use have a very limited set of circumstances on which they come into play.  The fact that they are not a one size fits all solution is why there are a number of other devices and methodologies out there being used and tested.  One key point I would like to differ from John on is the last point which he calls the collapsible table, this is certainly a method, but it does not highlight the device.

The Collapsible Table at Chat Hills was built by Dan Stark, well known in the USA as a top course builder.  The table in question and in fact in the picture on Eventing Nation is but one of many uses of the Mim NewEra Clip System.  This system was developed in Sweden by engineers Mats Björnetun and Anders Flogård.  Critically the Mim Clips are very versatile in their application and can be used in so many more fence types than the Frangible Pins.  Personally I have seen the Mim Clips on fences at Sydney Events very similar to the fateful fence that Oli hit at Rolex and also similar to that of Sharon’s fall this weekend at Fair Hill.  The key difference between the Mim and the Frangible Pin is that the Mim can be set to react to both forward and downward force.

These devices are very new to eventing being less than 12 months old, however they are backed and designed by two very skilled engineers who have made a living building car safety devices for many years, they know how to both build and test based on solid engineering principles.  I have been privileged enough to see the Mim Clips in action 3 times this year, thanks to Course Designer and Builder Wayne Copping and they are impressive.  I have no doubt that when the wider eventing community take these up as the norm rather than the exception we will save more lives of both Horses and Riders.

In early November the Mim NewEra Clips will be used on four fences at the CCI Four Star Australian International Three Day Event in Adelaide, this is a great opportunity for these revolutionary devices to be highlighted to the world.  I do hope that the Aus3DE PR Team and the Media alike take the time to explain and highlight how these life saving devices are being incorporated as a proactive means of improving safety in our sport.

Next time you go to an event where ever that may be in the world, take the time and ask the Technical Delegate (TD) and Course Designer (CD) or the Committee for that matter what safety devices they are using and let them know that you would like to see more used for the benefit of the sport.

I have received written confirmation that in the future Badminton Horse Trials will include a feature on the safety devices incorporated into XC and how they are designed to work.  This is a great step forward as education and understanding is a key step to making safety a higher priority in our sport.  And if Badminton is doing it then it must be something worth following and developing.

A final comment on John’s EN article, there are lots of comments on the page and in fact John is highly encouraging of comments and debate.  One of the comments makes note of the fact that we keep on losing horses that either die on XC or need to be euthanized following an injury.  This is true and is a really important focus we need to have, we also must not lose sight of the fact that we have and will continue to lose riders in our sport and WE must do everything in power to avoid this.

The most recent death is that of Sebastian Steiner of Austria who died on XC in Italy in September just before WEG.  At the time there was a 2 line Press Release from the Event Organisers and the FEI.  Since that time there has not been a single substantive article written about Sebastian’s incident.  We cannot allow these deaths to go unnoticed or in vain, we must learn from them, talk through them and do our best to avoid them in the future.  The “CONE OF SILENCE” helps no-one.