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.

ESJ

Risk Management & Frangible Device meetings

Hi guys,

Just a quick post to let you all know I have not forgotten about these meetings and reporting on how they went. They were on 27, 28, & 29 of January. To date the “Cone of Silence” has been most effective and I have almost no information.

What I do know is that at least one other person tried to participate in the FEI Risk Management Meeting and despite a demonstrated track record in the area of Eventing Safety was excluded. Additionally, there are whispers of discontent amongst some present and the whole “cone of silence”. Hopefully this will lead to some change and more open and transparent discussions in the future.

I can’t even tell you if the ProLog guys were invited to the second TRL meeting after being excluded from the first despite the fact that the FEI stated the meeting included all known manufacturers of frangible devices.

As of now, I have no other information to share.

If you have more information and would like to share it anonymously with me drop me a line, your confidence will be respected 100%.

eventingsafety @ gmail.com

In the meantime, please rider safely and wear your helmet.

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.

John

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

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.

Share

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.