A Great Story on the ProLog

ProLog

ProLogs into the water at Red Hills Horse Trials 2010

The ProLog is an engineered Polystyrene log painted to look like a real log.  It is the brain child of Canadian Eventers Mike Winter and Kyle Carter (recently named on the Canadian WEG Team).  Kyle operates from a base in Florida USA whilst Mike is based in the UK and is also a Course Designer.

The ProLog site is here.

However, this is a great story on the Pros and Cons of the ProLog on the Eventing Worldwide website, enjoy.

ProLog

This is what a ProLog looks like on the inside, from Red Hills Horse Trials 2010

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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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Return to play and where the USEF seem to be heading

I just found this article in the Spring 2010 edition of the Eventing USA 2.0 magazine written by Captain Mark Phillips, Chef d’Equipe and Technical Advisor of US Eventing.  This is an extract of his article which is on pages 26 & 27 of the Eventing USA 2.0 magazine.

The Pine Top accidents brought many issues into focus. Not least of which is the new rule in this country that if it is possible to ‘pin’ or make a fence frangible, it now has to be done. The pins are free, courtesy of the USEF, so there are no excuses in the future.

Secondly, the concussion incidents at Pine Top highlight once again the inadequacy of the USEF ‘return to play’ policy. In Europe it’s very simple; if you have a concussion you are suspended for three weeks unless you go to a neurosurgeon and have an ‘impact’ test. Only then can you get back to compete sooner. Rusty Lowe who has done so much for safety in the sport of eventing in the U.S., has been a strong proponent of this rule, and I understand that Malcolm Hook, (USEF National Safety Officer and USEA VP Competitions) and the USEA Safety Committee led by USEA Vice President, Carol Kozlowski, are planning to put this proposal on the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Board of Governors and fully expect it to go forward as a rule change to the USEF this year.

In the same vein, I believe that a USEA ICP certified coach is essential for all riders competing at USEA events. After all, everyone is in agreement that the fastest way to a safer sport is through better coaching. I fully expect that in ten years all coaches at USEA competitions will be ICP certified and I call upon the leadership of the USEA to work towards this goal. Becoming certified certainly shouldn’t cramp anyone’s style if they are a good enough coach. In the meantime, I stand in the collecting ring and warm-up areas feeling immensely sorry for all those people paying for and listening to often dangerous advice from their coaches at USEA affiliated events.

Mark and many of his contemporaries including Lucinda Green have been very public and vocal that one of the most critical steps to increasing safety in Eventing is to lift the level and quality of coaching.  Many riders come to Eventing from numerous different avenues including starting out as adult riders.  Fewer are having grown into the sport through Pony Club where a focus is on horsemanship not just learning to ride.

There is also a movement in some countries that teaching riders to fall safely can help to reduce injuries.  Personally, I think this may help for smaller falls but when your in a rotational fall, it is not your landing that is the issue but the horse landing on you that causes the issue.

So YES, it is definitely important to teach riders to become better “Horseman”, and learning to fall cannot hurt (well it might, but a great skill to have). But reducing rotational falls is simply the area of focus which will reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities.  The most recent death in our sport was a 16 year old young lady in Russia (an emerging Eventing Nation), read my story here.

We all need to consider the factors of “Return to Play” and how having a heady injury can affect your performance, not just on the day but in the weeks following.  For instance in the UK, British Eventing will place any rider who has had a head injury that results in a loss of consciousness on a mandatory minimum 21 day “Medical Suspension”.  At the end of the suspension written approval from a medical specialist (i.e. Neurologist) is required and must be approved by British Eventing before a rider can return to competition at both BE and FEI events.

Here is an extract from the BE Rule Book explaining a “Medical Suspension”

vii. Falls and Suspensions

Falls – Any Competitor who has had a fall or sustains a serious injury anywhere at the competition site must see the Doctor and be passed fit to ride before riding that horse in a further test (Show Jumping or Cross Country) or before riding any other horse. After a fall in the dressage, the BE Steward may, after discussion with the ambulance personnel, give permission for a rider to ride again, if no doctor is present.

Suspensions – The doctor may decide that the Competitor is so badly hurt that he should be medically suspended. Such a suspension will either be for a stated period or of unspecified duration. Details will be recorded on the rider’s BE Medical Card.

In the case of a head injury (or other injury likely to cause concussion) the following applies:

a. No loss of consciousness and no sign of concussion – No mandatory suspension;

b. No loss of consciousness but with brief symptoms of concussion (all symptoms of concussion must have resolved within 15 minutes both at rest and exercise) – minimum of 7 days mandatory suspension;

c. Any loss of consciousness, however brief, or symptoms of concussion persisting after 15 minutes – minimum 21 days mandatory suspension.

The day of injury counts as the first day of the suspension period.

After suspension the rider may not compete in any competition to which these rules apply nor in any FEI competition until:
a. Any period of suspension, whether stated to be minimum or not, has elapsed and the rider has written confirmation that he is fit to compete in Events from a Registered Medical Practitioner and the contents of the written confirmation have been communicated to BE;
OR
b. The rider has written confirmation that he is fit to compete in Events from a Registered Medical Practitioner accepted as appropriate (e.g. a neurologist) by the Chief Medical Officer and the contents of the written confirmation have been communicated to BE.
If a rider is taken to hospital from an Event without having his Medical Card completed by the doctor, a minimum 21 days mandatory suspension shall automatically apply in respect of a head, or other, injury likely to cause concussion. In the case of other injuries the rider may not compete until he has obtained written confirmation that he is fit to compete in Events from a Registered Medical Practitioner and the contents have been communicated to BE.
A copy of any written confirmation of fitness to compete must be supplied to BE if required by the Chief Executive.
A rider who has been medically suspended from competition must supply written confirmation of fitness to compete to BE office before resuming competition.
Alternatively a copy of the document may be faxed to Carolyn Simm (02476 697235) or scanned and emailed to carolyn.simm@britisheventing.com

Some people consider this rule to be too tough, a Medical Suspension rule similar to this was actually introduced into the FEI rules on 1 July 2009.  This rule 519.3 was then removed (in the main) on 1 January 2010.  No public explanation has been given for this reversal.

So what can you do as a rider to help improve safety in Eventing.

Start with yourself

  • Do you have an experienced and qualified instructor? If not, get one
  • Do you have even experience and appropriate horsepower to be riding at the level you do?
  • Have  you got and always wear the best quality safety helmet you can afford?  Read this to see what happened to Oli Townend’s helmet after his Rolex fall.
  • Do you have a top quality Back Protector Vest?  The best you can afford
  • Do you have an air jacket?  If you can afford to Event you can’t afford not to wear one, if may save your life! Point Two or Hit Air Airbag Vest
  • If you see something on the Cross Country Course or for that matter at an Event that you are not sure about, find the Technical Delegate and ask, we are not scary and better safe than sorry.

We all need to be part of the solution, so if you are not sure please speak up, for the sake of our sport.

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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.

Frangible Fences in Eventing

The future of Eventing as an international sport relies on improvements in safety. Principle improvements rely on increasing safety on Cross Country and decreasing the risk of “rotational falls” for both Horse and Rider.

The frangible pin has been around for quite a few years now. The pin only works in some quite specific parameters and relies on downward force to “break” the pin and prevent a fall. In the right circumstances this is a highly appropriate method for reducing rotational falls. I have seen them work and it is very impressive.

There is some work recently that suggests the pin may work in more circumstances if the pin and rail are installed on the back of the fence rather than the face as is traditional. Data will prove whether this will work and until then we will have to experiment and see.

Two other methods of creating a Frangible fence have arisen in the last two years or so. The first is a polystyrene log Prolog® ie frangible log and it is being marketed and developed in the USA by Mike Winters and Kyle Carter with their company Safer Building Materials, I was lucky enough to witness these in use at the Red Hills Horse Trials.

The latest system on the market promises much, The NewEra System has been designed and developed by engineers Mats Björnetun and Anders Flogård of MIM Construction Frändefors Sweden. Both having equestrian backgrounds.

The MIMSafe NewEra System is very exciting as it is very versatile, it can be used in a wide variety of fence configurations and promises to be low cost. I was lucky enough to see it in use at the Sydney World Cup Round in Sydney May 2010. Course designer Wayne Copping is working very closely with Mats and Anders to help improve the deign.

I plan to upload videos, research papers and other material relating to improving eventing safety here. I have a web page of photos here which includes photos of frangible fences, if you have some please submit them for uploading. If you find some information, please share it. I firmly believe that if we all share information our sport will grow and prosper.

The ProLog in Competition

The ProLog has been used in competition on a number of occasions. I saw it in action at Red Hills HT, Hugh Lochore actually employed them primarily to reduce stifle injuries on the entry into the water. For the 3* class it was a bounce and the 2* a one stride. In both cases the ProLog was employed for both A & B elements.

Interestingly, for the first element it was built conventionally, supported only on the ends. For B element for both classes the pole was supported in the centre also, Hugh’s reason being it was a low fence from memory only 80cm high. At that height it is not recommended to be frangible (for the frangible pin a fence needs to be normally at least 95cm high to use the pins, source USEA Cross-Country Obstacle Design Standards & Frangible Pin Handbook). Hugh saw real potential in reducing the number of stifle injuries by using a log that would absorb some impact.

Given the number of impacts on the logs at the end of the day, we could see that this application certainly has some merit. Here are some pics of them, one log was broken in the two star class. The feedback was that it broke due to the high number of impacts (most horses gave it some sort of rub) rather than any single impact.

On the other hand, they were used for the first time at the Rolex 3DE 4 Star event. The log was used on the entry into the “Head of the Lake”. It was only broken once, by Capt. Geoff Curran and The Jump Jet the ProLog snapped clean in half meaning that they stayed up top and safe. There was a video on youtube of it but for some reason it has been pulled. Here is a photo on the Chronicle of the Horse website. This second pic is amazing.

If anyone has a copy of the video, I would love to see it again.