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declined from 96.45 percent to 84.01 percent. During this timeframe, approximately one in every 18 starters expe- rienced a fall, most of them involving a rider falling off as opposed to the horse falling. Statistics do not describe the particulars of a fall, Mari-


lyn points out, and the numbers do not indicate whether a rider falls off and lands on his or her feet, or if it’s a more serious fall. Similarly, reports of injuries are based on whether riders are taken to the hospital; some riders might be taken to the hospital and released quickly with a few bruises, while others have sustained more serious injuries, but this level of detail is not included in the report. “Every year the TDs (technical delegates) are getting


more information and trying to follow up on what happened when riders went to the hospital,” Marilyn continues. “Sometimes riders go to the hospital and they are just a little shaken up or bruised but it’s not a serious injury, so the [hospitalization rate] data on its own makes the number of injuries look worse than it is.” As National Safety Officer for the US Equestrian Federa- tion, Jon Holling of Ocala, Florida has traveled twice to FEI meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland. Jon is an active upper- level event rider and trainer and is currently competing Sportsfield Two Doors Down and Dalanteretto.


“I think in general you can’t argue that eventing has


become far more technical than it was,” Jon says of the sport’s safety issues. “I think as a designer you can get away with making things more technical than you could in the past, but I think we have to be careful as a sport that we don’t push that line too far because we can, because of the safety net of frangible (breakable) fences and technology. Statistically we are safer now than we used to be but with the technical questions, we’re push- ing the line. It’s good that it makes us better as riders, but it is risky. But statistically the sport is safer than it ever has been.” With the prevalence of social media, he points out, as soon as something happens, such as a fall or injury or even death of a horse or rider, everybody knows about it. “It’s not to say it’s okay that people and horses get hurt, but when bad things happen, we do have to realize that’s just one moment,” he says. In horse falls specifically, there were 201,162 start-


ers over the 12-year study period with 3214 horse falls recorded; of these, 2725 of the falls were non-rotational (1.35% of all starters) and 489 were rotational (0.24%) which represents one rotational fall for every 460 start- ers. (A rotational fall is one where the horse hits a fence with its front legs or chest and its body somersaults over the fence.) The percentage of rotational horse falls, with its higher risk of injuries for the horse and rider, has decreased over the 12-year period. Jon was recently in Lausanne attending an FEI meet- ing with delegates from various countries involved in eventing. “Every country has their own way of going after fixing the problems, but when you all sit down in the room everyone has the same idea: that we need to make it better and safer,” he says. “My friend Rob Stevenson said it’s like a piece of Swiss cheese: every layer of safety has some holes in it, so you want to have another layer that, yes, also has holes, but they cover each other. Coaches, officials—all these layers need to do a good job. We talked a lot at the FEI meeting about how to improve all those layers. At the same time you have to step back and say we’ve done a pretty good job. We’re not there yet and probably never will be, but actually we are safer than we were 20 years ago.”


Karin Donckers (Belgium) took a fall at Aachen, Germany in July 2017. Her safety vest inflated immediately when she came out of the saddle.


28 May/June 2018


Worldwide Safety Efforts As the sport expands globally, participation has increased by athletes from countries that lack the same history and depth of the sport that countries like England, the U.S. and Australia boast. Members of the FEI are working to promote education and create guidelines that will help educate riders and coaches from these countries and also set standards for competition. Robert Costello says that, while he has not been to any of the events being established in developing countries,


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