U.K. Horse Charity Investigates Eventing Risks

The Horse Trust, a U.K. equine welfare organization, has announced that based on recent research the group funded, some cross-country course designers are putting horses at risk for damaging falls by incorporating "potentially dangerous" jumps.
The study, undertaken by Ellen Singer, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, at the University of Liverpool, is the first such epidemiological survey. The organization reports that previously, suggested changes to course design were based on anecdotal or descriptive information. (Read about another study that Singer and colleagues completed on eventing safety--specifically, long and short formats--here.)
A release from The Horse Trust stated, "Perhaps surprisingly, fences posing the greatest threat are those with a base spread greater than 2 meters (6'6") which are faced straight on. Analysis shows that these cause most rotational horse falls--which in turn pose greatest risk of injury to both horse and rider. Reducing the width of these fences would make a greater contribution to safety than reducing the number of fences jumped at an angle.
"The study also revealed that horses competing in one-day eventing competitions are at greater risk of falling at a drop landing compared with those competing in three-day competitions," the release continued. (A drop fence often is described as a bank.)
Researchers also discovered that the speed of the approach was significant, with falls occurring both when the horse is allowed to approach an obstacle too quickly and when the rider is overcautious.
Horse Trust chief executive Paul Jepson commented, "The challenge of the cross-country course is an essential element of the competition--but we would urge designers to take account of this research when preparing their courses and riders to think more carefully about their speed of approach. It seems that, every year, there is the tragic death of a horse or rider. If taking account of this survey can prevent one of these tragedies, it will have more than proved its worth."
The Horse Trust, founded in 1886, is the oldest horse charity in the U.K. Based at Speen, Buckinghamshire, it is committed to a program of welfare, science, and education, and it is the largest provider of grant funding for equine welfare in the United Kingdom. The Trust funds research into equine diseases, gives grants to help build and equip equine hospitals throughout the country, and works to raise awareness of the importance of cost, care, and commitment of responsible horse ownership. The Horse Trust also manages The Home of Rest for Horses, which, funded solely by donations and legacies, provides lifetime sanctuary for more than 100 retired working horses, ponies, and donkeys from many different backgrounds.

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